Glencadam Mystery Dram Tasting

After the Tomintoul tasting last month, Angus Dundee were generous enough to invite the same group to a Glencadam session with the same format. Three mystery drams were again provided, and the tasting was led by brand ambassador Iain Forteath. Iain has also been involved in the whisky-making process of late, having had a hand in the creation of both the latest batch of the 15 year-old and the new sherried expression, the Reserva Andalucia. (You can find a detailed interview with Iain over at Malty Mission)

I’ve always been a big fan of Glencadam – I consider the 10 year-old one of the best entry-level expressions around and one of the hidden gems of the whisky world. I also love the 15, but had never had any of their older or sherried bottlings due to pesky budget issues.

The identity of the drams was only revealed by Iain at the end of the evening, which was good both for suspense and for eliminating preconceptions. The first dram of the evening was an ideal opener: zesty, crisp and fresh. A style I love and recognise very well – but was it the 10 or the 15? As much as I love them both, I’ve never had them side by side and so I’m not as well-trained at differentiating between them as I should be. In the end I plumped for the 10, and most participants agreed it was on the young side. When Iain revealed that nobody had got it right, I knew right away it was the 15 and so it turned out to be.* I always thought of the 15 as the same style as the 10 but with a few extra years, so I was a bit surprised to find out that it’s comprised of a relatively high proportion of first-fill bourbon casks compared to the 10. Usually from first-fill bourbon I get a lot of vanilla, coconut or intense fruity sweetness, but I always thought the cask influence in the 15 was restrained (and the whisky is all the better for it).

*Yes, I am kicking myself for getting it wrong, especially since I love them both. I do think that confusing them speaks volumes for the quality and value for money of the 10 though.

The second sample was in a different ballpark altogether. The fruit notes were still fresh but riper, with an abundance of sweet peaches and apricots and a certain antique furniture note that indicated a considerable amount of time spent in oak. Having not had a Glencadam older than the 15 before, I took a stab in the dark at the 21, but it turned out to be the 25 year-old. It’s a beautiful whisky which reminded me above all of the Balblair 1991, and was the highlight for most participants (although the 15 ran it close, which again is testament to the quality and value for money of the Glencadam core range).

Following the 25 year-old was always going to be a difficult task. Tastings often finish with a sherried whisky, and the identity of the third sample was immediately apparent. Quite youthful with a pronounced sherry influence, it could only have been the newly released Reserva Andalucia. It’s a vatting of sherry finished and fully sherry matured young Glencadam, and in my opinion it was handicapped by having to come after the excellent 15 and 25 year-olds. It’s a good whisky with bold (for Glencadam) flavours, but it just doesn’t have the variety and complexity to rival them. Nor is it supposed to in any case – it is after all a budget-friendly gateway to sherried Glencadam, of which there isn’t much. Having it at the beginning wouldn’t have worked either – the 15 would’ve seemed too astringent if it had come right after the sherried sweetness of the Reserva Andalucia. I’ve saved a little bit and it’ll be interesting to taste it again alongside similar NAS expressions like the Tomintoul Seiridh or the punchier Glenrothes Whisky Maker’s Cut.

Speaking of Tomintoul, I probably wasn’t the only one in the tasting who thinks that Glencadam is in a different class to its stable-mate. In my opinion the Glencadam 25 blows its Tomintoul counterpart out of the water – it’s the difference between excellent and merely good whisky. It’s closer between the other expressions we tried (the Glencadam 15 vs. the Tomintoul 14 and the Reserva Andalucia vs. the Seiridh), but again my preference was firmly on the Glencadam side. It would be interesting to hear if anyone preferred Tomintoul.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and memorable evening, made all the more fun by the virtual company of some very knowledgeable whisky lovers and, above all, by the expert guidance of Iain.

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