I was interested in Scotch when I first went to Scotland. And kudos to the Scotch Whisky Experience. I went through it, they gave me the basics as a base for me to get wrong and be corrected and grow. For instance, they poured one from almost every Scotch region.
Yes, almost. They talked about Campbeltown, however, they noted due to the low amount of whiskies that come from there it wasn’t part of the regular tour.
Much like that time in grade 3 I learned about the existence of Manitoba or in grade 2 when I found out there was a rodent called a vole, I was immediately interested. I wanted to try something from there.
Well, we’re many whiskies in, many reviews down, and many portions of my liver damaged (not by alcohol, I eat too many sweets), and I’m still hooked. There’re five distilleries (true, two of them are made at Springbank so there’s three and Kilkerran gets help from Springbank… gah, I’m just saying five here) in Campbeltown, and every so often blends pop up in the hands of independent bottlers, showing off the smallest but by no means lowliest Scotch region.
Today we’ll be looking into these Campbeltown blends. Are they worth imbibing? Or just a trip to Scotland? Let’s see, shall we?
Thanks to /u/devoz for this dram.
Campbeltown Fruit Basket Cooper’s Choice is a teaspooned-malt, or in other words, it only counts as a blend as a technicality.
Do we know where the original came from? Not at all. Do we know an age? Nope, nothing on the label. But we do know that this came from a famous distillery in Campbeltown. So perhaps the main one isn’t Glen Scotia or Kilkerran, the lesser-known two.
I kid, I kid, it could still be from either of them.
The other interesting thing here is this whisky was finished in a Pineau des Charentes wine cask. This is a French fortified wine made from grape juice or lightly fermented grape must and then a Cognac eau-de-vie is added. Why is that interesting? Because it’s the second one I’ve ever seen and had.
Cool. But how does it work? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 69
Region: Really? Ok… Campbeltown… Nah, it’s technically a blend, there’s a teaspoon in there.
Cask Type: American Oak with a Pineau des Charentes finish
Cask Number 9556
Number of bottles: 360
Colour: 10YR 7/10
Nose: Lime zest, grapefruit, apple candy, papaya
Light, acidic heavy, and really sweet/fruity. It’s tough when you get so many acidic/fruity notes, because you feel, on the one hand, that you’re trying to describe the strong diverse nature of what the malt smells like. On the other hand, well, you’ve written fruit four times and you’re overdoing it.
It’s fruity, tropical, and acidic.
Taste: Papaya, lime, applewood smoke, peanut butter, banana
More tropical, more fruit, but now some smoke, some nuttiness, and a bit of funk when you add water. Stays tropical throughout. Very odd, like having a peanut butter and papaya sandwich.
Finish: Limeade, cotton candy, smoke, lemon, mineral
Sweeter now, less tropical, less acidic at times, and really sweet. Breaks down from the previous weird elements. It’s not a bad finish, just doesn’t really hold up to the rest.
Conclusion: Sweet and weird. An odd dram which is fun to sip on. It can be a bit mindless on the finish, however, overall it shows off a less-often tried cask and blends it into the Campbeltown flavour of smoke and fruit.
It’s there for tropical fruit/acidic fans out there. The smoke balances it, and it takes some honest left turns at times. That said, I wish a bit more complexity came of it. Perhaps this is as far as acid can take us (hippies will tell us otherwise).
Up next I have two Living Casks from Cadenhead. The idea on these is simple: When you visit a Cadenhead shop (which if you haven’t, you’re missing out) you’ll see they have casks setup. They fill these up at different times with younger whiskies from the region, thus making a blended malt that’s continuing to vat together. When they run out, they start with new ones.
Some places mix some whiskies, some fill it up as they go, and so on.
What you get is a unique daily drinker. It’s cask strength, it’s interesting, it’s inexpensive for a cask strength dram, and you can choose your region, so it’s a bit of a more focused blend versus what else you typically buy.
So how did two of the Campbeltown ones taste? Let’s see, shall we?
Campbeltown Cadenhead Living Cask – Edinburough June 2016
Blend Components: Multiple Springbanks
Bottled: June 11th, 2016
Colour: 5YR 5/8
Nose: Guava, maple sugar, caramelized sugar, raspberry
Tropical, sweet, sweeter still, some earth/oak, and finally some acidity to round it out. I’m looking for a bit more, maybe some smoke, maybe some savoury or industrial notes, perhaps even some spice, but no such luck.
Taste: Cereal, icing sugar, molasses, blackberry
Less sweet, though in comparison to the nose most things would be. Still has that acidic note eventually. That said some of it goes to a generic cereal note. So we’re growing, a bit.
Finish: Burnt sugar, cloves, floral, heat, melon, cinnamon
Hey, more sugar! Kinda tastes burnt this time, so at least it’s changed.
The end finally has a bit more to it, but it feels like too little too late. It’s frankly the most diverse part of the dram and doesn’t happen until the very end. It’s hot, floral, spicy, and sweet. The fruit is generic but is at least there to balance.
Conclusion: Too sweet, little else going on until the end. Frankly, the finish is what saves this. I could see it as a mindless after-dinner drink to pair with a dessert and note have to take apart. It’s sweet, sweet, and then sweet.
Good choice for a daily drinker, probably not what I’d walk away from a well-stocked shop like Cadenheads on vacation with.
Campbeltown Cadenhead Living Cask – Berlin September 2019
Blend Components: 1 Longrow bourbon cask, 5 Kilkerran bourbon casks, 3 KIlkerran sherry casks, all aged around 7 to 8 years old.
Colour: 10YR 8/8
Nose: Vanilla, persimmon, peanut butter, brown sugar, violets
More floral here. Lots of nutty notes, some more sugar but balanced, and each part of it has flowery notes, like hippies hanging out at a gun range.
It can be a little overwhelming at first but given time/water really turns into… a nice strong Lowland? What are they doing over at Kilkerran?
Taste: Persimmon, molasses, raspberry, pineapple syrup, violets
More of that interesting fruity/tropical/floral note, some strong sweet notes, and more of that floral. This is really quite odd. It’s nearly there, and certainly unique, but also I’d like some spice or maybe that Longrow to round it out with something more than acidity.
Finish: Brine, honeydew, cardamon, cinnamon bread, metal The finish has the spice and fruit I was hoping for, as well as a sudden brine and industrial note. Holy hell this is an odd one. The finish is so disjointed from the rest.
Conclusion: Very odd. It’s obviously a mixture of some casks that were all going in the same, weird, floral direction or had issues. For instance: No smoke, even though there’s a very peated Longrow in here.
All in all, I enjoyed the persimmon note and found this to be interesting if heavily floral. I don’t think Kilkerran fans (do they exist yet in some amount yet?) would be chomping at the bit to have this.
It’s unique. It’s certainly a nice blend, and probably a lot better than the individual elements that came together as some sort of Great Lakes Avengers-style group to make it. I just don’t really know if many would want more than one ounce of it.
Scotch reviews #1240-2, Blend reviews #102-4, Whisky Network reviews #1893-5