...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

K&L Single Cask Whisky tasting with the LA Scotch Club (Part 2)

(link to PART 1)

Let us start Part 2 with a pair of lovelies, sampled neatly.

Distillery: Caperdonich -- no link as it's now defunct :(
Independent Bottler: Sovereign (Douglas Laing)
Sold Exclusively via: K&L Wines
Age: 18 years (1994 - August 2012)
Maturation: ex-bourbon (possibly second fill?)
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Alcohol by Volume: 58.4%

Caperdonich Distillery was Glen Grant's younger sibling, constructed by Glen Grant's ownership across the street from the older distillery.  In fact, it was known for some time as Glen Grant #2.  A very creative name.

Whisky was experiencing one of its boom phases in the 1890s, and the Grant family wanted to take advantage of that by expanding quickly in 1898.  So up the new distillery went.  Four years later, the boom ended (as *ahem* booms have been known to do) and the baby distillery was shuttered.  Over sixty years later Glenlivet Distillers bought it, spruced it up, and reopened it.  After passing between owners for a few decades, Caperdonich was closed again in 2002, this time permanently.

I'd never tried a Caperdonich before the K&L tasting.  Nor had I previously sampled any Sovereign bottlings, most likely because Sovereign is a label that Douglas Laing only sells outside The States.  (The K&L Davids have done a little trailblazing, bringing in four whiskys from the Sovereign label this year.)  When I arrived at the tasting on Wednesday night, I had no particular favorite but once the event began this one did pique my curiosity the most.

The first taste was a winner.  But as I had a long trip home at the end of the night, I scooped up a 25mL sample to try the next evening:

The color is light urine.  #1 as opposed to #2.  You're sold already, aren't you?
Okay, let's start this again.

The color is a pale amber.  It's very herbaceous and vegetal on the nose at the start; some serious anise and pine.  But it also smells sugary and candied.  It's light on the vanilla, though heavier on banana, apples, and pencils.  There's a mossy note, followed by smoked apricots.  It's weird.  I love it.  The palate goes from chocolate to banana to pear to peat cinders.  I also found some perfumy herbs and wood smoke within the ethyl sting.  A hot hot finish.  Enormous in fact.  A big hit of white fruits, black pepper, and peat smoke.  It's actually not that peated but the note is sharp.  There's some cerealy barley couched amongst more of the gin-like herbs.  I think my chest is still warmed by it a half week later.

I'm a fan of the odd stuff.  This one won't appeal to the sweet-tooth nor the sherry-tooth nor the easy-going-tooth(?).  But it will appeal to the weird-tooth.  I've heard it takes to water well, softens it up, but I didn't force it to swim.

Availability - K&L Wines
Pricing - $125.99
Rating - 90

And then there was the oldie, the show closer, the Glenfarclas 1970.

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Ownership: J&G Grant Ltd.
Sold Exclusively via: K&L Wines
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: 42 years (1970 - September 2012)
Maturation: ex-oloroso sherry cask
Alcohol by Volume: 56.9%

Look at that ABV.  Most 40+ year old whiskys would have alcohol content down in the low forties by that point their lives, the angels having walked away with the rest.  But this particular cask spent much of its life high up in a very warm corner of the warehouse.  As a result it aged a little like some bourbons do, with the water evaporating faster than the alcohol.  This resulted in only 134 bottles coming out of an entire sherry cask.  This is essentially whisky concentrate.

Even with my phone's goofy flash going off, the whisky's color matches the photo.  If you look above and below the label, you can see the black coffee tone.  Upon sniffing the sample at home, I instantly began pondering what it must be like to afford drinking glamorous whisky every day.  The billionaires must get spoiled for taste.  Can they still appreciate the greatness of the sensory experience?  This rich man's whisky has a glorious nose.  A Worcestershire sauce-soaked steak.  A dark rich boozy ice cream.  Brandied Hershey's syrup.  The very insides of an old European oak barrel.  The alcohol still flexes its muscles around moments of orange rind and oceanic salt.  The palate took me by surprise.  It's very salty.  The thick texture holds bitter baking chocolate, unsweetened cranberries, lots of grapes, dried cereals, and cured meats.  It's exceptionally dry and a little metallic.  The finish adheres itself to the tongue.  A duet of sea salt and bitter horseradish, followed by lemon sour candies and coffee grounds.

Those nose is phenomenal.  The palate and finish, though, really didn't do it for me.  I don't mind bitter and citric sour, but when combined with the big salt, metal, and dryness the result can cause a bit of pucker-face.  There's an unrelenting quality to all of its features that's admirable.  And its age is something be appreciated.  Going with a cask like this is a bold move on The Davids' part.  I do believe this would appeal to others' palates, especially folks who take their coffee black.

Availability - K&L Wines
Pricing - $579.99
Rating - 83

I cannot overstate the importance of K&L's Exclusive Cask work to us American whisky fans.  Compared to Europe, U.S. retailers have a limited amount of cask strength bottlings.  Even fewer independent casks.  Many of those we do get here have bloated prices.

To recap the selection from the tasting:
As you can see above, the Caperdonich would be my favorite.  The Kilchoman 100% would be second in line.  The Bruichladdich is good, but gone.  May I also recommend the very easy drinkin' Longmorn 10yr Signatory to those looking for an Exclusive in the lower price range.

Yet, of all the drams, I'm actually leaning towards buying the Faultline 10 year old North Highland.  Yes, a sherried whisky.  The reasons for this choice are as follows (in no order):
  1. It tastes good.
  2. The price.
  3. Quality-wise, it's a leap ahead of Glenm*****ie Las***a, at a similar price.
  4. I want to support the Faultline label so that we may see some more good picks in the years ahead.
Thanks again to The Davids for their excellent work.  I look forward to this year's discoveries...


  1. I haven't opened my bottle of Caperdonich yet but your tasting notes highlight the resemblance to Glen Grant which is a herbal whisky. Since Caperdonich was virtually identical to Glen Grant (from the stills, water source, and other equipment), I'm not surprised the styles are similar.

    1. Thanks. That makes sense. I'm still on the lookout for a non-ancient Glen Grant that I like. That would in turn save me the expense of hunting down more Caperdonichs! More fuel for a future Taste Off, perhaps...

  2. Darn, the Faultline bottles ended up selling out before I could get another bottle (or two). My open bottle actually showed a great deal of improvement as the level went down and more oxygen got in. The fruit notes became more pronounced and the odd peppery finish (maybe sulfur?) completely disappeared. It's not something I've noticed with the Glenmorangie Original or Lasanta but I might need to check with my open bottles of Quinta Ruban, Astar, and Finealta (I have a lot of Glenmo open right now).

    1. I wonder if they'll get more in stock or if that's it? Big picture-wise it must be a great thing for K&L as it gives them a great track record to inspire future Faultline releases.

      Wow, you have almost the whole range of Glenmo going right now.

    2. Sadly I believe that's it, which makes me sad. But I hope the Davids select another interesting cask in the future. The Littlemill they got prior to the Glenmo was also great quality according to the reviews.

      Since the Glenmo range is so diverse in styles (thank you Dr. Lumsden!) that I've decided to use them for palate training. And it's a great way to teach potential newbies.

    3. You're right, the Glenmo range is great for teaching/learning/calibrating. I did a bunch of my learning from their old Sherry Wood, Port Wood, and Madeira Wood bottlings back in the day. Plus I do adore the Original and Astar so.