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.  Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Caperdonich 18, 1994 (Hunter Hamilton for K&L)

Caperdonich 18
This Caperdonich was bottled for K&L in California by Hunter Hamilton under their Sovereign label. Hunter Hamilton in turn is one of the many Laing outfits, I believe. All the Caperdonichs I’ve had have been very old and from the halcyon period from the late 60s to the early 70s so I am curious to see what this middle-aged one from 1994 is like. You don’t really hear too much about Caperdonich from the 1980s and 1990s.

And Caperdonich is really not a well-known name, in general, outside whisky geek circles. This bottle started out north of $100 at K&L and eventually got discounted down to the mid-$70s. Hard luck for those who bought it at the original price but so it goes, I suppose. Anyway, now that the distillery is closed down for good it might well be that there’s a lot of stock from its later period as well that might get to mature to a ripe old age as the older stock did through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Continue reading

Caperdonich 38, 1968 (Duncan Taylor)

Caperdonich 38, 1968

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.
Continue reading

Two Caperdonichs from 1972

fruit-cocktailThe whiskies I am tasting tonight are from a closed distillery that has become something of a cult phenomenon in recent years: Caperdonich. As is not unusual among closed distilleries, the cult has been somewhat late to form. Caperdonich was never a storied distillery in its heyday of production, coming into being as Glen Grant 2, and then being closed for most of the 20th century until it was rebuilt in 1965 and renamed Caperdonich (due to a law prohibiting two distilleries from having the same name; this is also why the old Clynelish distillery became Brora in the late 1960s). It was never intended to be a frontline single malt, and most of its production went into blends until it was closed in 2002 (this is not unlike the situation with perhaps the most iconic of all closed distilleries, Port Ellen, which was a workhorse distillery until it closed in 1983). While some old-school independent bottlers–Cadenhead’s and Gordon & Macphail–released the odd single malt bottling over its active life (I have not tasted any of these) it wasn’t until the early 2000s–ironically, right after the distillery was closed–that it gained a wider reputation. This was due largely (entirely?) to the release of a number of bottlings of very old casks from the late 196os and early 1970s by a number of independent bottlers, especially Duncan Taylor. Continue reading