Caperdonich 12, 1998 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Caperdonich 12Here is another Caperdonich from the 1990s. This one is younger and from later in the decade than yesterday’s bottle from Hunter Hamilton. This was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their Single Malts of Scotland line. And in a bit of a twist it’s heavily peated. I don’t think Caperdonichs were commonly heavily peated so this must have been a part of distillation runs made for specific blending needs.

Caperdonich 12, 1998 (57%; Single Malts of Scotland; Barrel 8712, Heavily Peated; from my own bottle)

Nose: Yes, this is indeed heavily peated. A big wave of smoke comes wafting out of the glass before I’ve finished pouring. By turns acidic, cereally and even a little bit fruity (lime but also some apples). I must say this is very Islay. With time there’s some ink as well and the lime gets stronger too. There’s some grapefruit too and a musky sweetness develops as well. Really quite fruity after a while (though I can’t quite pick what the fruit is exactly) and quite a lot of salt too. Gets more and more medicinal (bandages, mercurochrome) with time. Really very nice. Will the palate match it? And what will water do? Well, water seems to make it even more intense as the peat and lime try to beat each other up my nostrils. After a minute or so there’s some vanilla, but not a whole lot. More sweetness (and vanilla) as it sits and more cereal too.

Palate: Oh yes, it’s no shrinking violet on the palate but there’s not quite as much going on. Dry, ashy smoke leads but then there’s the lime and that teasing, muskier fruit; and then as I swallow, a trailer truck full of salt arrives. No cereal here but a lot of iodine. With water: interesting how the salt gets pushed back. It’s much more balanced now; it’s not any less intense though. The lime turns to citronella and there’s a phenolic note that could out-Ardbeg Ardbeg. Disappointingly, water doesn’t draw out any other fruit.

Finish: Long. Ash, smoke and salt; a lot of salt, perhaps even an excessive amount. But after a minute or two the salt fades and the acidic smoke just keeps going. After a few sips the salt recedes a bit and the finish gets rather phenolic. With water the salt backs off even more and the phenols come on even more strongly.

Comments: Okay, I don’t have vast experience with peaty Speysiders but this seems quite different from most contemporary Ardmores and Benromachs I’ve had (and also from peaty malts from elsewhere in the Highlands). There’s no farmy/rotting organic quality to the peat and smoke here. Instead, it seems very Islay-like in its phenolic and maritime quality. In fact, so help me, God, this is very close to Lagavulin (at least to the younger bourbon cask Lagavulins I’ve been drinking of late). It’s not quite as chiselled as those, and the salt overload makes it rather unbalanced without water, but, on the whole, I wish I had another bottle. I’m a little surprised to see how low the average score for this is on Whiskybase (the redoubtable Willie JJ, who is usually a benchmark, scores it below 80 points).

Rating: 86 points.

2 thoughts on “Caperdonich 12, 1998 (Single Malts of Scotland)

  1. I wonder if some of the simplicity comes from the fact that this spirit was destined almost entirely for blends. If it was going to be one component out of many, unidimensionality wouldn’t be such a minus. With that said, it also sound like it might be an interesting canvas for cask finishes, like Benriach’s peated malt.

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  2. Tonight I found and drank 2 ounces I’d evidently saved of this bottle. I’ll reiterate just how Islay-ish its peatiness is. And tonight I’d probably go up a point or two. In fact, reading my notes from almost four years ago, it appears that I liked it more than the (not low) score indicates.

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