Whisky Review #18: Caperdonich 16 Years Old (Refill Sherry Cask, The Whisky Agency)

Caperdonich is one of those distilleries that I have heard of in passing when I was reading up on certain distilleries. I knew that it, along with the Imperial distillery, was once part of the Chivas Brothers (and by extension Pernod Ricard) stable of distilleries which produced whiskies for the various Chivas blends.

As with every closed distillery, there tends to be a bit of intrigue attached to how good the whisky it produced was for standalone consumption. However, since the whisky produced at Caperdonich was primarily used for blending purposes it is nearly impossible to find an official distillery bottling. This basically means that we’re left with the next best option: Independent bottlings.

But before we get to that, let’s delve briefly into the history of the distillery itself. Caperdonich was built in 1898 by the owners of the neighbouring Glen Grant distillery and was even known as “Glen Grant #2” by them. The distillery only produced whisky for 4 years before being mothballed by the owners until 1965.

The distillery was then rebuilt by new owners Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd (who would eventually come under the control of Chivas Brothers) in 1965 and as British law prohibited two simultaneously active distilleries from utilising the same name, “Glen Grant #2” was renamed as Caperdonich.

The distillery was modernised and operated by Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd until 1977, when it was sold to Seagrams. Seagrams in turn operated the distillery until 2001, when they were taken over by Pernod Ricard. The distillery ran for a further year before it was closed for good in 2002 and subsequently demolished in 2010.

Caperdonich distillery.
Caperdonich distillery (before it was demolished).

Getting back to the whisky itself, I knew that while official bottlings were nigh on impossible to find, the same couldn’t be said for independent bottlings. Luckily, I found a suitable candidate at The Auld Alliance at the Rendezvous Hotel in Singapore.

The bottle in question was a 16 Year Old Caperdonich which had been fully matured in a refill sherry cask before being bottled under the Liquid Library label belonging to independent bottler The Whisky Agency (TWA).

It was distilled in 1995 and matured in a refill sherry butt for 16 years until it was bottled in 2011 by The Whisky Agency at a rather impressive cask strength abv of 50%.

A glass of this beauty cost me approximately SG$26 inclusive of service charge and GST, which I thought was rather reasonable considering the provenance. There was another bottling available at the bar by the glass, but the asking price was pretty much double of what I paid for this so I had to pass.

So, let’s get to the review shall we?

Caperdonich 16 Years Old Refill Sherry Cask (The Whisky Agency bottling)
Caperdonich 16 Years Old Refill Sherry Cask (The Whisky Agency bottling)

Caperdonich 16 Years Old (50% ABV, Refill Sherry Cask, Bottled by The Whisky Agency)

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: A noticeable scent that is somewhat reminiscent of wood varnish, followed by some rich sherried raisins and apricots. I can’t remember the exact alcoholic strength of this whisky, but I do remember that there was an alcoholic element in the nose, which might hint at a higher than standard abv.

Some jammy notes somewhat reminiscent of blackberries followed by a sprinkling of nutmeg and some barley sugar. The woody cask elements then begin to fade in, with some oaky notes and tannins emerging later on.

Palate: Rich, palate-coating sherried sweetness, although not overly sweet and somewhat elegant. The blackberry jam and apricots from the nose make their way into the palate, intermingling beautifully with the sherry. There is a definite wood varnish note in there, which while rather weird, does somewhat add to the complexity of the mouthfeel.

Nutmeg, allspice and some star anise make an appearance as the sweetness begins to subside and takes on a more spicy flavour. The alcohol burn is more pronounced now, although it does not sear the palate. The familiar oaky, tannic notes from the nose also make an appearance in the palate, although they are not overpowering and yet work rather well with the spiciness.

Finish: The spiciness subsides slowly, with some of the sherried raisins and barley sugar making another appearance towards the end. The mouthfeel is oily for the most part, although it does become slightly drying towards the end. A touch of plum puree and berry compote dusted with sugar at the very end. Very delicious dram!

Rating: 87/100

I was drawn to the sherried character of the Caperdonich from the beginning and was rather glad that it did not disappoint. The fruity-spicy element of this dram is very well balanced and there is a nice contrast between the initial sweetness and the warming spiciness towards the end.

I reckon the rating is a rather fair representation as while this dram was good, it did have its flaws. The wood varnish note, which weird, was an interesting addition to the mix. However, I also believe that this might have the ability to polarise people’s opinions as some may like it (as I did) while others do not.

That being said, this is definitely a whisky that is meant to be sipped and savoured slowly as it does grow on you. The outturn of this particular expression was 199 bottles from a single refill sherry cask so I reckon that it would be somewhat unique (and also rather hard to find, as I struggled to find much information about it online).

If you are intending to head down to The Auld Alliance in the near future and are looking to try something that is rather interesting, definitely do give this whisky a go as it just might surprise you. Now, to get my hands on a bottle of this…

Until the next dram, have a great weekend.

Slainte!

Brendan

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