Ages ago, a while before this entire Corona period started, a representative of the Dutch importer for James Eadie whiskies came by and gave me some samples for reviewing.
We talked whisky a little bit, and got to the brand quickly.
James Eadie’s great-great-grandson revived the brand with Trademark X leading the way. It’s a blended whisky based on the recipe of the whisky that was there a hundred years ago. Some distilleries still exist, some don’t, but by approximation this whisky resembles what existed then.
Of course, this is largely a marketing story since just about everything in the whisky industry has changed in the years since. Malting, barley species, yeast strains, the entire production process. Everything is different in the details.
Still, a comparison between then and now can be made, and that is at least something.
Apart from the Trademark X there are some single cask bottlings that I tried as well. Reviews of all of these whiskies are below.
James Eadie’s Trademark X, 45.6%
Very light, in very old fashioned blended whisky way. Lots of grain, and some oak too. Some orchard fruits, apple, pear, grape.
The palate is slightly syrupy, with barley sugar, applesauce, and hints of vanilla. There’s a bit of bite from the youthy alcohol.
The finish is a bit more dry, and a bit less fruity. The sweetness is a bit more peardrop like.
This is what you hope to find in blends of this price level, however, you do need to go to the indie producers for it. A recommended blend for ‘daily drinking’.
Unfortunately, the whisky seems to be sold out and that is reflected in secondary market pricing.
Caol Ila 9yo, 2009-2019, 46%
Typical smoke, with a slight milky scent to it. Very Caol Ila. Twigs, heather and slightly earthy.
The palate has a bit of a creamy texture. Smoky, with apples, barley, brine and oak. Quite dry after a few seconds, with sawdust, and black pepper.
A warming finish, with mostly barley, dry spices and some oak. A bit of straw, sawdust.
I’ve expressed that I generally not a huge fan of young Islay whiskies. By that I don’t mean that they’re uninteresting or bad, but they’re rather generic. Especially since virtually everyone got their hands on some casks, and is bottling them.
This one fits that mold as well. A decent whisky, nothing spectacular, but a dime a dozen.
Linkwood 10, 2019, 46%
Slightly dry, with hints of granite and slate. Earthy notes, with dirt and hay. A touch of vanilla from the oak.
The palate shows heaps of vanilla, grass and moss. There’s oak and quite some sweetness. Bread, and light mineral hints.
Dry, with hints of sawdust, burnt crumbs like you you clean out a toaster. Vanilla and pastry cream.
A very gentle whisky. Unfortunately, at only 10 years old the cask has more or less taken over the entire whisky and it’s insanely vanilla driven. And therefore, very ‘vanilla’. Not a ‘bad’ whisky, but utterly uninteresting.
Benrinnes 10, 2019, 46%
A very gentle woodiness with moss, straw and grass. The spirit is clear with a pear drop sweetness. A bit of weight with scents of coconut husks.
The palate is a bit thin and rather fiery with quite a lot of crushed peppercorns. Some oak and green spirit with straw, moss, and a candy like sweetness.
The finish shows a bit more balance, with some heat, quite some wood influence and vanilla. The spirit shows with moss and pear drops.
This goes in another way than the Linkwood. This cask was a lot more timid, and while that should result in a whisky I rate higher, I think it’s a bit too thin for a small batch whisky.
Blair Athol 14, 2004-2018, 59.8%
Malt, honey, soft oak and a whiff of vanilla. Very gentle with a hint of banana, baked apple a d some cinnamon.
This is where the ABV announces itself. Not overly so, but it’s strong. Again, the baked apple, soft and pulpy oak, honey sweetness. Lots of maltiness too.
A nice afterglow, with some more vanilla and a bit drier in the oak part.
We get into the more fierce end of the range. The cask strength whiskies are truly strong, and this one clocks in at almost 60%. It’s matured in an ex-sherry cask and that’s rather noticeable. There still is some vanilla on the nose but there’s a lot of other things happening too.
Not a bad dram, in the end.
Strathmill 10, 2008-2018, 59.3%
Very strong and alcoholic, much like cleaning spray. But with wood, grain and orchard fruits. There’s some baked apple, cinnamon and pear.
Dry and sharp with apple crumble. Sweet custard, cinnamon rolls.
Sharp again, a massive afterburner. Then fruity, pastry like. It mellows quickly and leaves a nice warmth, with apple oue and booze flavors.
Another belter, but a very different one than the Blair Athol. This one matured in recharred casks and therefore is a lot more unique. It shows lots of wood spices, grains and some fruits. The balance between these layers of flavors is really good, and makes for a very interesting dram, although it could use a drop of water.
In the end this turned out to be a dram I gladly drink and wouldn’t mind trying a few more times!
James Eadie, as a brand, lives in the same conflicted situation as many other ‘new’ brands.
By that I mean that it’s main reason for existing is whisky’s immense popularity right now. The drawback of that popularity is that there are way too many single cask bottlings out there, and therefore it’s slim pickings for bottlers.
I think that most of the whiskies I tried in this line-up are victim to not being first picks. There’s a lot of genericness, too much vanilla.
Having said that, we should keep in mind that the prices of these bottlings are rather low compared to other bottler who DO get first picks. So, the audience for these whiskies is much more in the category of whisky aficionados that have tried some different malts, and are now getting into the world of independent bottlers.
For that audience, these drams are great.
For more seasoned drinkers, it might be better to save the money of two of these bottlings and buy something else. Unless you want the Strathmill. That’s a very good whisky indeed!