Cadenhead’s Original Collection: February 2022


Today we turn our attention to the latest release from the Cadenhead’s original collection. If you’re unaware of these bottles they are Cadenhead’s “budget” releases, bottled at 46%. This is our first time trying these as we’re not convinced the drop in ABV is matched by a significant enough drop in price, but we’re hoping the quality of the drams will make up for this.

These will not be full reviews as we’d usually do, instead it’s our quick thoughts on the drams available similar to our SMWS outturn reviews

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For reference, our scale is...

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 12 Year Old 46% - £49.00

Lots of cereal notes, alongside quite a prominent yeastiness. It's a little peppery on the nose too, like sticking your nose into a freshly opened container of ground white pepper. Behind that we're getting some green apple, a little runny honey and a fair bit of young alcohol aroma.

The palate is quite dry at first, quite a bite of alcohol there but some nice lychee, pear and custard flavours appear towards the end. There's an oakiness that stays with you though that's a little bitter and unpleasing. The finish is decent length.

Water brings out some fresh melon on the nose, and maybe a little candyfloss. The palate is opened up quite nicely with some reduction, showing more sweetness, taming some of the alcohol bite and showing off some orange essence.

Overall not too much going on here that's exciting, it's pleasant enough but a little fiery and still has that young spirit flavour riding through - maybe needs a little more time in the cask, or a more active cask to give it a bit more depth.

Score: 6/10

Heaven Hill 12 Year Old 46% - £77.00

Toasted tiger bread, a little orange zest, some light ginger in the background. There's maybe a little nuttiness in there too that reminds us of pecan pie. There's a spiciness that just sits alongside the alcohol, but overall the nose is quite restrained and not giving too much away. 

The palate is full on vanilla cheesecake, a nice biscuit base with layers of thick vanilla cream cheese filling with some chopped up candied pecans on top. Ginger syrup appears on the side, nicely balanced with some brown sugar. There's an kick of alcohol that stays with you, but it's not unpleasant. The finish had a good length with a touch of menthol and a little candy cane sweetness. 

The reduced nose is giving us some gingerbread, a little mint leaf and some toasted oak aromas. There's a touch of leather there too. The palate becomes a little fruitier with water, losing the vanilla cheesecake and gaining a little strawberry puree, maybe even a little tinned pineapple juice too.

This is one for the dessert lovers out there. It's got tons of flavour, but a bit of a restrained nose. Lots and lots of bourbon goodness alongside a little spice gives this dram pretty good balance. More of a prominent nose and finish would help out, but it's still a tasty dram.

Score: 7/10

Inchgower 12 Year Old 46% - £55.00

Dates laced with syrup, toasted macadamia nuts, a little sour cherry. There's a mustiness here, damp wood and maybe some smoked bacon rashers. There's some cinnamon and cloves, but it's got a very dry nose. The alcohol isn't too apparent here, really letting the other aromas shine through. 

The palate has chocolates and hazelnuts, very reminiscent of Nutella, along with cherry liqueur. The alcohol makes quite a heavy appearance, but it gives it a nice warmth that compliments the richer, sherried flavours. There's a fair bit of oak that's showing through too, more of a slightly bitter, drying sensation rather than the sweetness that we think this dram could use. It's rich and decedent, but maybe a little to dry. The finish does linger on for quite some time. 

With some water we're getting more dried leather, tea leaves and losing the black forest gateau we had before. It's a little more foresty, woody and vegetal now. The water has had the same impact on the palate as it does on the nose - really bringing forward the earthy, dry bitter notes. There's a little christmas cake with brandy sauce on the finish now.

It's a lovely rich, sherried dram suited to these cold winter nights, but water completely changes it to oaky, dry and earthy. We'd suggest avoiding water on this one. It would also benefit from a little touch of sweetness to really balance those rich flavours out.

Score: 7/10

A Speyside Distillery 13 Year Old 46% - £65.00

Burnt toast, not in a peaty way but in a charred cask style. It's quite bready, maybe even some ginger cake. It has a richness, a little dried fruit and orange peel, but it's lacking any sort of sweetness, just like the Inchgower above. There's maybe some tobacco leaves there too. 

The palate brings out a sweeter version of the nose, we're getting fruitcake covered with fondant, crystallised ginger and maybe even a touch of mango. Saying this, the alcohol is potent and makes itself very well known as you swallow. The finish has a decent length, tasting more of oak mixed with dried fruits.

Water doesn't seem to change much on the nose, maybe a little more citrusy and oily. We're also getting some bananas that have been flambéed in brandy. The palate has a bit of star anise and maybe some brown sugar too. The water has definitely mellowed the overpowering alcohol we tasted before, but it's still quite dry and bitter on the finish.

Another rich dram, with some of the more delicate flavours overpowered by the alcohol. Water helps immensely, bringing a more rounded flavour but it's not blowing us away. We'd take a stab in the dark and say that this could be Glenfarclas, although it's lacking the usual chocolatey notes that we get. Who knows...

Score: 6.5/10

Ardmore 11 Year Old 46% - £54.00

Smoked bacon, strawberries drizzled with balsamic glaze, a little damp soil. The peatsmoke is definitely there, nicely balanced though and working well with the alcohol. There's a nice underlying sweetness that we're picking up, as well as a pronounced saltiness, like salt baked celeriac.

The palate opens with sweet butterscotch, with an underlying current of smoke that carries all the way through to the finish. There's some strawberry jam inside the layers of a sponge cake, and maybe some ready salted crisps. It's a nice balance of sweet and savoury playing off each other. The finish has a good length and the alcohol isn't too overbearing, but there's maybe a touch too much oak appearing. 

Water brings out a meatier smoke, as well as some tobacco and ash. We're getting a lot more aromas reminiscent of a bonfire, all the sweetness and fruitiness has been lost under the blanket of ash. The palate mirrors this, showing lots more ash, tar and earth, burnt oak and soot. 

This is actually quite delicious, there's a good balance of sweet, salty and smoky to keep you going back for more. Unfortunately a lot of this is lost with the addition of water, which turns it into a little bit of a one-dimensional smoke/oak bomb. Still pretty good quality whisky.

Score: 7.5/10

Caol Ila 10 Year Old 46% - £45.00

Maritime, it's like stepping inside the fishmongers. There's the salty sea air, with a little cold menthol aroma in the background. Peppermint with a little minerality too. Going back to it we're getting a little warehouse mustiness and some more dried fish. The alcohol seems very restrained on the nose.

The palate is expectedly salty, but showing a roasted peanut-like nutiness we weren't expecting. There's lots and lots of bonfire smoke that follows through into the peppery finish. The fishiness is there, but it's not as prominent as before, and we're getting a nice vanilla sweetness appearing alongside it. The spirit and peat are there providing a sold backbone to the dram. The finish is maybe a little short for our liking.

Water brings out wet cardboard, a smoked cream cheese frosting and some more of those peanut like aromas. The palate is considerably drier now and a little acrid, not our favourite flavours. Saying that, the peat is still there and the spirit is showing nicely on the finish.

This is decent bourbon matured Caol Ila at a good price, peat lovers won't be disappointed. It's maybe a little simple and a touch boring, but definitely quaffable.  

Score: 7/10


Thanks for reading. Let us know what you thought of the release in the comments below.

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