Caperdonich 17, 1996 (Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen)

Caperdonich 17, 1996, Dunes An Oir
Caperdonich was shuttered in 2002 and demolished in 2010. It is about as dead as a distillery can be. There’s still a fair bit of its malt from the years before closure floating around though and I hope some of it is being allowed to mature to a far greater age. As most whisky geeks know, old Caperdonichs from the 1960s and 1970s can be some of the most delightful and complexly fruity whiskies of them all. While this doubtless has a lot to do with older production regimes and barley varieties and so on, it would be interesting to find out how similar or different whisky distilled there in in later decades might be if allowed to reach similarly ripe old ages.

That said, I’ve enjoyed a number of teenaged Caperdonichs from the 1990s (see this 18 yo, for example). If this one, bottled by Malts of Scotland for the Dutch retailer, van Zuylen, is as good as those I’ll be happy enough. 

Caperdonich 17, 1996 “Dunes An Oir” (58.6%; Malts of Scotland hogshead #13025 for van Zuylen; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Charred oak, cinnamon, a bit of honey, a hint of apricot. The wood gets quite dusty as it sits and there’s some cold black tea as well and increasing mint. Gets fruitier as it sits with some peach joining the apricot and beginning to push its way past the wood. With a lot of time (an hour) the fruit (apricot mostly) and oak are in pretty good balance. Water pushes the oak back further and brings out a buttery note to go with the fruit. Still very spicy though.

Palate: Hot but approachable. The wood is not as loud here as I thought it would be but it’s still the dominant note. Hard to pick out much else at first, in fact. On the second sip there’s some of the fruit from the nose and also a kind of “blood in the mouth” quality I usually get from sherry casks where the wine and whisky are not fully integrated. Increasingly malty as well (roasted malt). The mouthfeel gets softer with each sip and the fruit emerges a little more but this needs water; well, let’s first give it some time. As with the nose, a lot of time brings more fruit and better balance to the palate as well but it does need water. Hmmm spicier (cinnamon) on the palate too with water but far less fruity.

Finish: Long. Mostly just spicy oak and mint. The late emerging fruit never quite makes it past the oak to the finish. No real change here with water.

Comments: If I’d only been allowed a sniff or two I might well have guessed this was a bourbon. If ever there were a bourbon drinker’s single malt this is it. Oddly enough, blind I would also have been likely to guess that this was from a sherry cask—the label does clarify that it was a bourbon hogshead. I can’t remember the last non-virgin oak cask malt I had that was this oaky—well, it’s oaky but not tannic. If you give it a lot of time it does get fruitier (though the oak never yields centerstage). Anyway, if you know someone who likes wheated bourbons and says they don’t like Scotch whisky you might try tricking them with this. Still available and interesting enough that I’m actually considering a bottle; call me jaded but, flaws and all, this is no cookie-cutter malt and that makes it worth picking over other malts that might be a few points better in my book.

Rating: 85 points.

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