Cadenhead's Original Collection: February 2023

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%. We usually skip these releases as we’re not big fans of Cadenhead diluting their whiskies, but we couldn’t pass up on the chance to try some Springbank.

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.
Benriach 12yo Sauternes cask 46% - £65.00

We're finding a fruit salad of apples and pears initially, melted butter, a little freshly squeezed lime and a slight herbal tarragon note right in the background. It's got a fair bit of wood coming through, dried apricots, runny honey and a certain mustiness that seems to linger on. We can get a little bit of the sauternes cask coming through on the nose, but perhaps that's just because we knew the cask type beforehand... would we have gotten more than bourbon otherwise?

The palate begins with French pastries, layers of buttery filo pastry, apricot jam and zingy citrus. Unfortunately the palate develops quickly into a more wood driven, dry, bitter finish that leaves you puckering your cheeks. The mouthfeel is a bit lacking, thin on the palate and the burst of initial flavour disappears quite quickly. Air brings out apple pie, macadamia nuts and a little bit of leather.

Reduction brings out some boiled sweeties, candied lemon peel, more nuttiness in the form of cashews and almonds on the nose. The mustiness from the un-reduced nose seems to have disappeared and we're finding it quite pleasant. The reduced palate loses a lot though, we're finding very muted and watery flavours with a bit of ethanol on the finish. 

A little disappointing, we weren't getting as much of the sauternes cask sweetness we were hoping for, and the flat palate and finish was a big let-down for us. Maybe it would have benefitted from a bit more time in the wood. Not offensive, but we wouldn't seek it out.

Score: 6/10

Aultmore 12yo Fino/Manzanilla casks 46% - £65.00

An earthy, nutty beginning with toasted pecans, rosemary and picked plums. There's some rhubarb cooked down in brown sugar, light ginger spice and caramel as you leave your nose in the glass. The alcohol feels in balance with the spirit, and air brings out fresh orange juice, cherries in syrup and cinnamon. It's important to note that these are mellow sherry aromas, it's in no way a sherry bomb.

The palate brings almonds, marzipan, moving into a distinct coffee grounds flavour that lingers into the relatively long finish. There's also some appletiser, dark chocolate and dates appearing as you continue sipping through the dram. The mouthfeel is fine, a little thin but it has somewhat of a creamy texture. Air starts to bring sherry spices - cloves and cinnamon to the fore, along with walnuts and wholemeal bread.

Reduction brings apple slices dipped in caramel, maple syrup on chocolate pancakes, and cracked cardamom pods on the nose. The reduced palate highlights dark chocolate, treacle, and cherry flavours, with a little bit of the coffee coming through again on the finish. 

One for the coffee lovers, one of the more distinctly-flavoured finishes we've tried on a whisky in a while. It's relatively well balanced, good sherry integration and quite quaffable.

Score: 7/10

Craigellachie 15yo Port cask 46% - £75.00

A big hit of red fruits right off the bat, strawberries, raspberries, currants, alongside an earthiness, fennel seeds, a slight smokiness and plums towards the end of the nose. We're also finding nuts, mainly walnuts, and glazed pork ribs as we come back to the dram. The alcohol is nicely integrated, and overall it's a punchy, in-your-face nose. 

The palate begins.. with smoke? You'd be forgiven for thinking there was some peat in here. There's also heaps of the red fruits from the nose, red currants, strawberries macerated with brown sugar, toffee and a mixture of milk and dark chocolate. There's also a meatiness to the dram, with a full body, good texture and mouthfeel. Air brings out fizzy cola bottles and more of that smoked meat from the nose. 

Reduction brings out pickling spices, apple cider vinegar, more roasted nuts and a savoury, meatiness on the nose. We've lost a lot of those sweeter red fruits. The reduced palate shows blackcurrants, chocolate and cherries, Cointreau and dry oak flavours. 

We confess that we're not the biggest Craigellachie fans, but this is a pretty good dram. We're impressed how well it comes together, and the impact the port cask has had brings some powerful red fruits to the nose and palate. It's also got great texture for 46%.

Score: 7.5/10

Cadenheads 7 Stars 30yo Blend 48.2% - £85.00

Fizzy raspberry sweeties, dusty oak furniture, sweet vanilla cream and a pink peppercorn spice on the nose. We're also finding a little strawberry and cinnamon as we continue nosing. We wouldn't automatically assume this is 30 years old, it feels a touch too peppery, especially at this ABV. 

The palate opens with richer flavours of coffee and walnuts, cacao nibs, treacle, toffee and brown sugar. This is all backed up with a peppery spice that lingers on but doesn't detract too much from the rich sherry flavours. There's a freshness that appears right at the beginning of the palate, ripe red fruits and zingy lemon zest, but this transforms quickly into maple syrup and nutmeg. We're getting more of the age coming through here, it's got a nice rounded profile yet there is a bit of the rougher grain spirit offsetting this. The finish lingers on for a good length with chocolate chip cookie dough, almonds and a little salted caramel. 

Reduction brings out more oak and ginger spice on the nose, along with sweet raspberries and a little bit of dry earth. The reduced palate has a little more vanilla and citrus coming through, but we're noticing more of a bitter finish now. We'd avoid adding water, the dram doesn't need it.

We don't drink too many blends so it's hard to compare this, but for what it's worth we quite enjoy it. The grain spirit is apparent in the peppery spice on the nose and palate, but the malt whiskies and sherry cask maturation bring it into a nice balance. Great value whisky.

Score: 7.5/10

Glencadam 10yo 46% - £65.00

We're met with inexpensive white bread after you've just opened the bag, shortbread biscuits sprinkled with white sugar, moving into dates, fudge and stewed red fruit aromas. As it sits in the glass, a fruitier side starts to appear with red grapes, mandarin peel and strawberries macerated in sugar. There's also a little warehouse must in the background.

The palate begins with warm oak spices, cinnamon and cloves, vanilla pod and tangerine. It's not super sweet, overall quite mouth drying with some leather and oak on the medium length finish. There's also some cola bottles and hints of coffee flavoured revels coming through as you give the dram some air. The dram has a good mouthfeel too.

Reduction brings more citrus to the nose, candied ginger, a slight herbal leaf aroma with some of that breadiness we got from the undiluted nose. The reduced palate has a similar increase in citrus, but coupled with tobacco and toffee. Unfortunately some of the body has disappeared with the addition of water.

Not a bad dram, some nice sherry influence on a bold spirit with a good body and decent finish. Maybe a little dry in places, but we'd have another dram.

Score: 7/10

Springbank 11yo Bourbon cask 46% - £65.00

A restrained beginning with flint, custard cream biscuits, salty toffee, fondant icing and lemon cake. Air really starts to open the nose up, and in addition to the aforementioned aromas, we're getting mellow smoke, chalk and a little dust. The alcohol feels really well balanced here, you can barely detect its presence. It's a really lovely nose.

The palate opens with salty sea water, freshly squeezed lemon, a little bit of brine, profiteroles filled with Chantilly cream and light, well balanced smoke. It manages to remain mellow and inviting whilst still being full of flavour. Air brings out desiccated coconut, a little lychee and graphite moving into a long, pleasant finish. It has a really good mouthfeel, oily and mouth coating.

Reduction brings out sweet smoke, salted caramel and honey on the nose, and we lose some of the zestier lemon notes. The reduced palate retains a lot of similar flavours to before, sweet vanilla, salt water, peat and mellow oak. We don't think it needs water added, although it doesn't harm it too much. 

Classic Springbank showing why well crafted spirit in good wood will produce a delicious whisky. To be honest, we wanted to not like it as much due to the 46% dilution, but it's a really good dram. Now give us the cask strength version next time please.

Score: 8/10

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

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