It'll come as no surprise to some of you when I say that I'm an enthusiastic supporter of the independent bottler James Eadie. I'm a fan of a) the team, b) their whisky and c) their prices. At a recent Edinburgh Whisky Group virtual meetup, where we tasted five of their recently released cask strength expressions, we were joined by Hugh from the James Eadie team and, without a doubt, all of the aforementioned reasons were reinforced.
For those of you unfamiliar with James Eadie, this independent bottler specialises in single cask and small batch bottlings as well as their own superb blend: Trademark X. Having poured the latter on numerous occasions at blind tastings, this has always been really well received.
A few years ago in 2017, at the whisky festival institution that is the Whisky Fringe, a fairly large group of us managed to organise ourselves effectively enough to ensure we all went off in different directions to grab our Half Time Oranges. As we reconvened, all with different drams, and had a wee sip of each (sadly, those days are probably gone now), the overwhelming winner was James Eadie's (at the time) not yet released Auchroisk 9 years. Well, I'm quite sure it was nine years old. And I think it had undergone a period of cask finishing. But two hours in to the Whisky Fringe and well, you know what it's like.
Wearing my Fife Whisky Festival co-director's hat, I was keen to sign up James Eadie as an exhibitor. Since then, they've exhibited at all three Fife Whisky Festivals to date and, this year, bottled a cracking Cameronbridge 22 years - selected by our good friends Luvians - as our first festival bottling.
James Eadie is a company which is constantly innovating, especially with cask finishes. I'll openly admit that I've been dubious about cask finishing in the past. Some folk might argue that cask finishing is used if the first maturation hasn't gone to plan; the whisky is moved to another cask in a bid to improve it. It's true that this can often be the reason behind certain cask finished whisky. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't - and those flaws of the initial maturation are still there albeit in disguise.
But let's not tar everyone with the same brush. There are other reasons for cask finishing: experimentation and creativity. Scotch whisky production is so heavily regulated - this isn't a gripe; I believe the advantages of this far outweigh the disadvantages - that experimenting with cask finishing is at least one innovative way to create a greater range of more interesting flavour combinations. And this is where James Eadie plays a blinder.
Our lineup of five releases for our online event included three cask finished expressions:
1) Linkwood 11 years - 58% - single recharred hogshead (£58.95)
2) Linkwood 10 years - 58.5% - finished for 16 months in a first fill European Oak Bual Madeira Hogshead (not available in the UK; exclusively selected for Taiwan)
3) Glen Spey 12 years - 60% - finished for 22 months in a first fill European Oak Palo Cortado Sherry hogshead (£61.95)
4) Benriach 9 years - 62.4% - finished for 12 months in a first fill European Oak Palo Cortado Sherry hogshead (£61.95)
5) Cambus 26 years - 55.4% - single sherry butt (£91.95)
The Linkwood 11 years was the winner on the night for me. It started off as a boozy banoffee pie and finished as an apple crumble with added chocolate chips. It was great to be able to try this side by side with the Linkwood 10 years with the madeira finish adding extra honey notes.
My only prior experience of Glen Spey has been turning the car around in the distillery car park whilst looking for Rothes Castle. Hugh explained that the vast majority of the distillery's output goes towards blending (it's a key component for J&B) and as a result, is one of those whiskies which can fall under the radar. This had notes of blackberries, Black Forest gâteau and strawberry jam.
The Benriach 9 years was the favourite on the night for a number of others in the group. As the youngest whisky in the lineup, it was surprisingly complex. Huge notes of vanilla fudge together with chocolate covered brazils and peaches.
The final dram of the evening was a dirty one. The Cambus was that diesely, funky kind of dram where none of the reviews you read make it seem even the slightest bit appealing. But it is. And that's why people write them this way; to stop you buying these bottles so they can buy them all up for themselves. ;-) Not only is this a cracking whisky, but the price is fantastic too - a 26 year old Cambus for less than 100 quid?
Huge thanks to Leon for giving us the chance to try the Linkwood 10 years Taiwan Exclusive and Hugh for joining us on the night to talk us through the whiskies.
As usual, here's a note to say that some of the above links are affiliate links - check the url to work out which ones. But obviously shop around and support local businesses if you can. When it comes back in stock, I'll be racing you to that Linkwood 11.
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