Another old Caperdonich, and another from Duncan Taylor, whose holdings in Caperdonichs from the late 1960s and early 1970s seemed until recently to rival Douglas Laing’s holdings in Port Ellen. How it is that certain independent bottlers seem to have disproportionate numbers of casks from certain distilleries I’m not sure. There were a number of these old Caperdonichs from Duncan Taylor available in the US until recently, and most at very reasonable prices. I got my first bottle of this 38 yo from 1968 a few years ago for a ridiculously low price especially given its age and quality (lower, for example, than Glenmorangie’s NAS Signet) and, against all odds, managed to find another bottle last year for about the same price. This would be unheard of in Europe. We may not get very much here in the US, but we do seem to have the luxury of bottles hanging around much longer.
Caperdonich 38, 1968 (51.4%, Duncan Taylor “Rare Auld”, Cask 2619; from my own bottle)
The label does not specify but I’d wager confidently that this is a sherry cask.
Nose: Cold tea, pine, mothballs, sweet cola, nail polish remover. Bananas and also darker, dried fruit notes–raisins, tangerine peel, brandied cherries. A whiff of smoke too, or is that camphor? Gets quite bourbony with time: maple syrup and cloves and cinnamon. With a lot of time, some hints of chocolate too (dark chocolate with oranges). A few drops of water and the fruit gets acidic (lemon) and then a little dusty.
Palate: Leads with acidic fruit that turns sweet almost as I swallow. Cherry cough syrup and some tannic wood. Lime peel as well with time, and some salt. The fruit does get a lot more tropical as the whisky sits in the glass, but it’s all quite restrained. Let’s see if water makes it a little more expressive. Water makes the cherry cough syrup note disappear. Now it’s mildly lemony with nice notes of peach/nectarine–the tropical fruit is still there, but still compressed and tight. More pine and camphor now too.
Finish: The cough syrup leads the finish at first but then a malty note emerges. At the very end the sherry begins to separate a tad. After a while, the lime lingers on the finish as well. With water there’s smoke and cocoa on the finish, and also more tropical fruit. There’s more of a spicy bite too now but nothing even remotely oppressively woody.
Comments: Really remarkable how restrained the wood is here–the cask must have gone dead at some point and just let the spirit reduce and transform. If you come to this looking for the overblown fruit experience of early-1970s Caperdonich then you will be disappointed. It isn’t that this isn’t fruity. It is, but the fruit is not the featured player, and is in lovely balance with spicy pine and camphor. This is a whisky that is immediately pleasurable but reveals all its facets with a lot of time and attention. It spent 38 years in a cask; giving a couple of hours to a couple of ounces seems only appropriate. Only 166 bottles of this emerged from the cask; I am so pleased to have two of them. This bottle (#11) is past the halfway mark now and will likely be finished before the end of the year. I may wait a long time before opening the second (#31).
Rating: 92 points.
So, I didn’t finish this bottle by the end of 2013 after all. But now, approaching the middle of 2015, it’s almost done: only one pour left after tonight’s. It’s a little thinner and a touch more metallic than it was when I reviewed it but it’s still an excellent whisky.