Sunday, April 13, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #275


Cambus 31yo
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Cadenhead's Authentic Collection
53.2% abv
£price unknown$

Tasted this at the same pub as Malt Mission #272 and I want to talk about Cadenheads cuz they deserve it, or Cambus cuz it is a closed grain distillery, but I have to stay topical while I can.

Blended whisky, Blended Malt, Single Malt, Blended Grain, Single Grain; these are the new terms that will define all types of Scotch whisky as proposed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Although folks have been disputing the wisdom of this decision (I have linked other views in past posts, but see THIS recent article...note: the pic in article is NOT Mark Reynier), it must be accepted that this is a decision made by a group of people that represent many different companies (William Grant and Sons, Pernod Ricard, Inver House Distillers, Burn Stewart, Edrington Group, Ian Macleod Distillers, Diageo, etc.) representing over 97% of Scotch whisky concerns. But what of the protesters, independent craftspeople on the sidelines who are not SWA members? I am talking about Spencerfield Whisky Co., Compass Box and Bruchladdich. Of course they are angry about being instructed what to do by what they see as the big corporate arms of the industry. And despite their personal interest in the issue, don't they have a point in questioning the motives of the SWA, or at least a right to protest?

Whisky is an product of discovery and exploration. There will always be customers that have questions in spite of labelling. That is the nature of this product and the customer's malt mission in the exploration of this varied and exciting drink will always unveil new unknowns, new mysteries. This is why excellent shops like Royal Mile Whiskies (rapidly becoming Royal Mile Rums), The Whisky Exchange, Loch Fyne Whiskies, Whisky Castle, etc., are so vital to the nurturing of the malt explorer. Real relationships of information exchange at such shops, and at this website if you don't mind me saying so, assist thousands on their roads of dram discovery.

BUT, these new terms are not being proposed for the benefit of these whisky buyers. Do those people really not know what vatted means? The new classification system is geared towards those with little interest in travelling too far into the world of whisky but who are affluent or part of an emerging middle class with a desire to spend money on luxury goods from brands they recognise: Chivas, Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich, etc. But these terms will not clarify anything. If I do not speak English and learn that the English word "Blended" means Johnnie Walker Red, then it will be hard to justify spending more shekels on Johnnie Walker Green when it too is "blended". There are other examples but time, research and patience is tight.

A rose is a rose is a rose. Conflating terms like this is stupid, a waste of PR juice and legal fees. But what does my opinion matter? What does YOUR opinion matter? What do Glaser or Reynier's opinions matter?

TASTING NOTES:

Corn and rum, and orange creamsicles. Creamy with coconut and lime. Very tropical stuff and immensely whiffable at strength.

Soft and creamy both in texture and flavour-wise. Lots of sweet oak and then beachy like jojoba, tanning lotion and suncream. Buttery corn and some kind of sweet that I had in the US when I was a kid visiting my Grandmother in Florida but I cannot remember what it was called. Useless tasting note... sorry.

SUMMARY:

A whisky that would justify being served with an umbrella. A real treat that would trick a few folks if tasted blind. Grain whisky in good oak can yield really incredible whiskies and, when matched with the appropriate malts, can become the stuff of legend. Not that there are many examples of this. But there could be. If every company wasn't busy selling off all their mature stocks, crafstmanship could yield a few absolute stunners. Unfortunately it seems the only folks who will be able to do that in the future are Compass Box and in that the big boys have lost out. Big time. Give us another 1964 Girvan! Carsebridge? North British?

Malt Mission #271
Malt Mission #272
Malt Mission #273
Malt Mission #274


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2 comments:

aw said...

"Real relationships of information exchange at such shops, and at this website if you don't mind me saying so"

I for one don't mind you saying so, and I think you should be proud of the stunning job you're doing imparting such information in an entertaining way on an almost daily basis. It's a lot of work, I know.

Re the naming debate, the problem seems to be one of education in the consumer to see that "blended" isn't a bad thing, in fact it's a good thing. As Jim Murray says in the introduction to blended Scotch in his bible, blended whisky should actually offer more than single malts, and therefore he marks them more toughly. But it can take years for such a message to ripple through to a large enough percentage of whisky consumers.

Chill-filtering and caramel addition were two useful expedients that, in their day, solved real problems in perception by consumers. Now things have swung the other way, and these two things are fast becoming anathema. But it took years to get there.

The industry faces a problem of education of the consumer re "blended". The sooner the campaign starts, the better.

m.lawrenson said...

Very good, but you forgot to talk about Cadenheads.