We’re into the home-stretch of the 2018 Boutique-y Whisky Advent calendar and it seems like the Boutique-y chaps have back-loaded many of the more ‘desirable’ (read expensive) drams from this year’s edition into the last few days. Door number 20 delivers one such whisky in the form of Caperdonich 22 year old Batch 5. Caperdonich was one of most recently additions to Scotland’s lost distillery list, closing in 2002, only a year after being purchased by Pernod Ricard. Whilst in operation, few paid much heed to the Rothes-based distillery, but over the last 16 years, Caperdonich’s desirability has greatly increased.
Originally constructed as an ‘extension distillery’ to Glen Grant (in a similar fashion to Clynelish B), it’s utilisation waxed and waned alongside the fortunes of the Scotch whisky industry – increasing production in times of boom, going silent in times of bust. However, despite being a sister distillery, its house style never quite matched that of Glen Grant - even during its last seven years of production when it operated with identical traditionally-shaped stills.
Deemed surplus to requirements almost immediately after its purchase by Ricard in 2001, it was demolished in 2011 (creating more space for neighbouring still-makers Forsyths) with one pair of stills journeying to the Belgium Owl distillery, and the other prepped to be fired up once more at the revitalised Rosebank distillery in Falkirk – due to reopen in late 2020.
Boutique-y’s fifth batch of Caperdonich is a release of 250 bottles delivered at 48.6% ABV. They’re available (one per customer) from Master of Malt at £249.95 each. The label highlights the now famous ‘whisky pipe’ which ran across the street carrying spirit from Caperdonich to Glen Grant – which, in no real surprise resulted in Rothes residents breaking out their tools to sneakily drill holes in said pipe to syphon off the spirit. It almost sounds like the plot for a Ken Loach film….
Nose: Bright polished orchard fruits (apples and pears) alongside plenty of old-fashioned orange liqueur – the result is expressive and a touch sweet and sour. Woodiness levels are high – lacquered wood panelling and well-steeped tea alongside charred cask ends – again, emphasising tarter aromas. Running throughout, bold notes of hazelnut and toasted bread. In the background, coffee grounds and delicate cut garden stems. Reduction should be approached carefully – the nose drowns surprisingly easily – once properly judged, releases blood orange, tangerines and dustiness.
Taste: The arrival is viscous with plenty of weight. It follows a similar pattern to the nose, but with things dialled up a notch or two – Orange peels and light tropicals (guava) with plenty of wood polish. Starting juicy and sweet, these quickly turn increasingly sour with unripe green apples (almost Apple Sourz) in the mid-palate. Malty biscuits, toast and black tea sit with chopped hazel nuts, mocha, sunflower oil and tree resin – an eclectic selection, but all working well together. The back-palate reveals growing cask influence – charred, and rather bitter. Water has a beneficial effect here reveals juicy tinned fruits (apples, pears, and oranges) as well as some of the delicate florals that I’d associate with Caperdonich – sunflowers, garden herbs and cotton fresh laundry.
Finish: Long, with drying bitter oak and a sprinkle of white pepper.
Caperdonich Batch 5 is rather multi-faceted and requires some unpicking. The fruitiest alongside distinctive nuttiness I’ve come to expect from middle-aged bottlings from this distillery are present and correct, but this expression amps up aromas and flavours from the tarter end of the spectrum, as well as delivering plenty of singed oak smokiness. The end result is rather good indeed, but not quite a homerun – sourness and bitterness in the mid to back palates are prominent enough that to my taste I was quickly reaching for the pipette for some reduction. Likewise, the price-point (£350 for an equivalent 70cl bottle) is noticeably higher than other recent (and in most cases older) indy expressions.
Review calendar provided by Boutique-y Whisky