Edinburgh Whisky: Cadenhead’s

As you probably do not remember, my experience at the London branch of Cadenhead’s was not very positive. This is partly because the selection on the occasion of my visits was not very inspiring, and largely because the staff were not inclined to be very helpful—one gent, in particular, almost eccentrically so. I am happy to say that, as expected, the experience at the Edinburgh location—down the hill on the Royal Mile—was as different as could be imagined. I’m also happy to say that the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s turned out to be a 2-3 minute walk from our Airbnb. As a result, I went a couple of times. I’ll have reviews of the things I bought in the coming weeks (or next month, more likely); here, for now, is a brief write-up of the shop along with far too many photographs—if such a thing is possible. 

Aesthetically, there are not very many differences between the Edinburgh and the London stores. Both are quaint, and both are rather small. The Edinburgh shop, however, is usually lively and has an altogether different atmosphere. On my first visit I eavesdropped as the staff patiently helped customers who had no idea what they wanted and catered to the more specific interests of those who did.

As at the London store, there’s a small but representative collection of official releases from across Scotland but their emphasis is squarely on their own releases. Of these I was most interested in what they had on offer in the 200 ml format and the young gent who was helping me—Lewis, I believe—offered me small tastes of everything I was interested in, as well as of a couple that he recommended. At no point did I encounter any pressure and he made good recommendations based on what I said I was interested in.

On my first visit, I ended up with two 200 ml bottles of their Authentic Collection release—a Glen Ord 13 that I was interested in and a Tullibardine 24 he recommended I try. I also picked up a 200 ml bottle of a Worthy Park rum and two 200 ml bottles from their in-store casks. They have a rum cask, an Islay cask, a Highland cask, a Campbeltown cask and a Lowland cask. These are all vattings, and I believe the Lowland cask is all grain. I purchased 200 ml bottles of the Islay and Campbeltown casks. The former was described to me as currently a vatting of younger bourbon cask Islays and the Cambeltown cask, I was told, was mostly sherried Springbank of roughly 15 years of age. As you’ll see when I post my reviews of these bottles, I think they were described accurately. The prices on these house casks are very attractive, by the way. On my second visit I picked up a 200 ml bottle of a 14 yo Caol Ila from the “cage” which houses their duty paid warehouse samples (I have not gotten into this one yet).

Anyway, here is a gallery of images from the store, in case you’ve never been and have wondered what it’s like. Click on an image to launch the slideshow; scroll down after to see what else I have on tap from this Scotland trip.

I wandered into a lot of whisky stores on the Royal Mile and environs in Edinburgh, including Royal Mile Whiskies, where I finally met the man, the myth, the Jolly Toper. I’ll probably have a couple of round-up posts on all these stores. Later, from the Speyside I’ll have a write-up of the legendary Gordon & MacPhail store in Elgin (spoiler alert: I was disappointed). On the distillery front, I’ve so far toured only Aberlour. I did stop in at a number of other distilleries in the Speyside and at Balblair in Edderton (I am typing this from the Dornoch Castle Hotel). Tomorrow (today as you’re reading this) we’re off to Orkney via a stop at Pulteney in Wick (where I will also do a tour). Pray for a not-too choppy ferry crossing of the Pentland Firth for us!

4 thoughts on “Edinburgh Whisky: Cadenhead’s

  1. I have many fine memories of this shop from the Jolly Toper’s tenure there. I first met Willie there, and there were times when I’d wander in, and he and Zok and who knows who else would appear shortly, and a jolly time was had by all. I was saddened when JT left, and I haven’t spent much time there the past couple of years. Glad to hear it’s still a positive experience.

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    • If not for the demise (in all but name only) of the WWW forums, I would have made an effort to contact Willie et al. But it’s been so long since he (and others) have made appearances there that it felt like it would be odd to message him out of the blue. Did meet Comrade Toper at his new establishment and enjoyed a nice chat.

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    • In my one visit there (2010), I too met the Jolly Toper. Well, I didn’t know him by that name and I didn’t catch his real name during my visit, but he took good care of me and sent me home with some bottles that I adored.

      Months later, back home, I was chatting about those exact same bottles on WWW and I was thoroughly tickled to discover that IT WAS HIM I was chatting with! Still my best-ever online whisky moment.

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