Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

These days pretty much every distillery has boarded the peat train (from Tomatin to Knockdhu/An Cnoc to Bunnahabhain) but you can’t accuse Glenfiddich of being followers. This peated Glenfiddich (Caoran apparently means “peat ember”) was first released early in the 2000s (there’s a Whisky mag review by Michael Jackson and Dave Broom from 2002); and another indication of it not being a product of the moment is that it had an age statement, being 12 years old. The bottle my samples came from was released in 2005. I don’t see any listings for it on Whiskybase after 2008 and so assume it is no longer being produced. If this is an incorrect assumption please let me know below and I will add it to my long list of lazy errors. (I do see that some stores in the US still list it, but Glenfiddich’s own site does not.)

Tangentially: does anyone know which distilleries with official releases that were hitherto sans tangible peat have not jumped on the peated whisky train in recent years? Other than Glengoyne, that is. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure Macallan haven’t and probably not Glen Grant, Glenrothes or Glenlivet.

Glenfiddich 12, Caoran Reserve (40%; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Just a hint of smoke and a lot more fruit—some citrus and also tart apple; there’s a sweeter floral note as well. With more time it gets a little grassy, but stays fresh throughout. The fruit concentrates a bit as it sits and the smoke grows from a hint to a suggestion.

Palate: Watery and then chilli peppery and then astringent (the smoke is stronger here but is like artificial liquid smoke). Not getting the fruit here at all at first. On the second sip there’s wet cardboard and a hint of scorched plastic. Stays nasty for a while and then after a lot of time (while I pondered pouring the rest out) the astringent/sharp notes subside somewhat. Hints of the fruit are now present but none of it adds up to goodness or balance. Okay, a drop of water fixes this a bit. The astringent notes are dimmed a lot more and the fruit talks a little louder.

Finish: Much longer than I’d like it to be and much longer than you’d expect given the thin mouthfeel. The plastic gets stronger as it goes. Gets a little blanker as it sits, thankfully.

Comment: I really liked the nose (which suggested a whisky in the low-mid 80s) but man, the palate was nasty neat (though it did improve a bit with time and then with water). A curiosity but not one to spend very much money on. I’d recommend leaving the bottles still out there for the collectors and archivists.

Rating: 74 points (below 70 if I’d not waited it out or added water).

20 thoughts on “Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

  1. I don’t believe Glen Garioch peats its whiskies, for one. They have released a few with mild peat, but they’ve all been nearly 20 years old from before the distillery stopped using peat. Now that I think about Suntory, I can’t think of a peated Auchentoshan either. How about Aberlour? I don’t know if Balvenie counts–I believe it regularly uses malt peated to no more than 5ppm (they released an Islay cask a while ago, but it was at the beginning of the peat craze). Cardhu? Linkwood? Balblair?

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    • Didn’t think of Glen Garioch as they used to be peated. They might be a rarer case of a distillery that got off the peated train. I think Balvenie counts. Didn’t they recently release another peated cask of some kind?

      Linkwood doesn’t qualify for this purpose as they don’t have any official malt (other than the Flora & Fauna). I’m also not including distilleries that only get one-off and DE bottlings (like Glenkinchie or Cragganmore or Dalwhinnie among the “Classic Malts” or something like Strathisla); also leaving out the other distilleries that don’t see regular official releases (your Auchroisks or Glenallachies).

      But I guess that still leaves a fair number: Aberlour, Balblair, Old Pulteney (or have they recently released something peated?) etc.

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    • Balvenie’s Peated Casks are just that, regular Balvenie matured in casks that preciously held something peaty, rather than actual peated Balvenie. (You’ll recall their first issue was “Islay Cask”, which the SWA frowned upon with all their might.) That said, Balvenie does use a bit of peat in their own maltings. The malt is dried over a coal fire (which I was told is completely odorless); they used to throw peat on top of the coal, but at some point added a side stove for burning peat, which gives them more control. Obviously, they don’t use a heavy hand.

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      • The Balvenie Peated Cask was finished in casks that previously held peated Balvenie. If I recall the distillery made a batch of peated whisky, put it in casks, emptied the casks, and then filled the “peated casks” with 17 year old Balvenie. The actual peated Balvenie is apparently aging in another set of barrels somewhere.

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  2. Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean Linkwood, meant Longmorn. Also Scapa? But I realize those are cheating since there’s only one OB for each, just like Cardhu (mostly–I think I’ve seen an older but non-DE Cardhu once).

    I see perhaps the Peated Cask Balvenie is still around or maybe brought back. If there’s any other, I’m not familiar with it. Anyway, I believe they intentionally peat all their malt to 5ppm, but it’s not very noticeable.

    I still think Auchentoshan might qualify. I don’t know about Old Pulteney, since I don’t know their latest special releases or travel retail bottles well (Clipper? any others?).

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  3. I’ve seen large supplies of Caoran at duty-free shops exiting Quebec fairly recently, but it’s not unusual for them to have stuff that’s been sitting in a warehouse for some years. For example, they had Glenmorangie’s Traditional for several years after that had ceased production, albeit not in the quantities that I’ve seen the Caoran in.

    Anyway, thanks for confirming my opinion of it–it was one of the rare bottles I just couldn’t finish. I left it with a friend in Scotland, who said she’d use it for hot toddies when she had a cold and couldn’t taste anything. Might not be bad in a cup of tea.

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    • My guess is the bad stuff in it could probably be blended away with ease. I’ve managed to save a few terrible and/or uninspiring bottles that way—I’m too frugal to pour bottles away (though I’d make an exception if anything tasted like there was something chemically wrong with it).

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      • MAO, can you recommend any tricks for “blending away” bottles that are ESPECIALLY nasty?

        I know you have those posts on here about how you disposed of Brimstone, and I had to resort to similar means with the one bottle I bought.

        I now have a bottle of Lost Spirits Leviathan III that is both (a) nasty, and (b) so overpowering that my few in-the-glass attempts to blend it away have failed. My idea for now it is to first decant the Leviathan in a big red wine decanter for a week or so in an attempt to let the nasty stuff blow off. Then, I’ll mix up a big “sh@t mix” of the Leviathan and some other whiskies that I don’t like (Charbay R5, Teeling Small Batch, Big Peat Christmas 2011), hoping they’ll somehow cancel each other out—and then dilute that with some cheap Islay whisky from Trader Joe’s.

        I guess I’m just wondering whether you’ve had better luck blending away nasties with more “neutral” whiskies (like basic Irish blends) or with “competing” whiskies (like basic Islays). Thanks.

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        • Maybe I’ll do a post about this at some point but basically you need, I think, what I would call a “mitigator”—a cheap inoffensive blend could work well, or a mild entry-level malt like the Glen Moray 12. This would ideally dilute the flavours without diluting the whisky or bringing any new strong notes to the party. If that in itself doesn’t make it palatable (and usable in mixed drinks or with ice for undemanding guests) then you can begin to add some stronger flavours.

          If I had more of this Caoran reserve to dispose of/play with my first pass would probably be some combination of it with Glen Moray 12 or similar plus some Bowmore Legend. Or just vatting it with more Glenfiddich 12 might do the trick. You don’t want to send expensive or prized whisky after the bad, I guess.

          I haven’t yet tasted the sample of Leviathan that Michael K. sent me, but I’m inclined to think that if it was possible to make Brimstone palatable it should be possible to make Leviathan palatable too.

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          • My Brimstone is (thankfuly) long gone so I can’t compare side-by-side, but I’m pretty sure the Leviathan is both stronger (more intensely flavored) and nastier. Definitely nastier. It took just one half-glass to implant a Pavlovian gag reflex and how I can barely approach the bottle. I’m looking forward to your review.

            Thanks for the blending ideas.

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        • Good to hear that the Leviathans aren’t getting any better. :-P Leviathan 2 was rough. Burnt McDonald’s honey, wet cat litter, and gasoline. I like big weird peat creatures, even immature ones, but the sickly sweet wine influence knocked everything even further out of balance. I wound up donating half the bottle to my best whisky friends and enemies. We’ll see what MAO thinks of it. I will say that L2 did get somewhat better with A LOT of air. But as you mentioned, that first glass is alarming.

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          • Michael, I’m glad to hear the Leviathans get better with air. As I alluded to above, my bottle is currently hanging out in one of those wide-base, I Dream of Genie-style red wine decanters in an effort to blow off the nastiest bits. i walked past it a few minutes ago and I still got the Pavlovian gag reflex, but I’m still pretty pessimistic. This is day 4 in the decanter

            I don’t know what flavor labels I’d put on the Leviathan, but it’s nasty. Wet cat litter might be a good one. Decay? Forgotten cauliflower?

            Does anyone know know whether K&L entertains refunds or replacements for unsatisfied Leviathan online buyers? I saw on their blog that they refunded a lot of in-person buyers, but this was my first K&L order and I don’t know whether to bother.

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