Glencadam, the lone distiller in the Scottish east highlands county of Angus, is raising its profile in America through a new distributor that made it available in 10 locales in October and will add New York, Texas and Georgia this year.
For most of its life the distillery was unknown to most single-malt drinkers. Founded in 1825, the distillery sold to blenders for use in such premiums such as Ballantine's. Closed for 10 years, it was reopened in 2003 by the independent company Angus Dundee, which also owns Tomintoul of the southern Speyside. CIL US Wines & Spirits is the new Glencadam distributor. Its releases include a 10-year-old, a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old.
The youngest of the three was produced at Glencadam in the era since Angus Dundee took the reins 12 years ago. But, according to Lorne Mackillop of Glencadam, the former owner, Allied Domecq, did not include much older whiskies in the sale: "We had to sort of go around buying up old stock [from blenders] to bring it back into the fold." The first of those repurchased releases, he said, was the 15-year-old. Because of difficulty in sourcing older whisky, it wasn't until five years ago that more expressions could be launched. Mackillop added that the company has also released single-cask expressions in Europe and may go on to do the same in the U.S. next year.
As well by its remote status, diminutive size and quaintness, the distillery is also distinguished by its odd still configuration. The lyne pipe travels at a slight angle upward (instead of down) as it makes its way from the still to the condenser. Mackillop says that creates a great reflux action that makes the whisky floral and elegant.
The decision to release the whisky as uncolored and not chill-filtered was to underline its floral character. He added that it is also in accord with the premium status of the brand as those are both features that appeal to whisky enthusiasts. "The irony is that by not adding caramel, it seems to add to the cost. I've never figured that one out for myself, but non-caramelized whiskies tend to be more expensive than caramelized whiskies.
Glencadam is also available in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts.
Glencadam Aged 10 Years (92 proof, or 46 percent alcohol by volume, $55 a 750 ml. bottle)
APPEARANCE: Color is light as straw. Comes down in big, slow droplets.
NOSE: Fresh and floral with grass and herbal notes. A bit of honey and lemon.
PALATE: Bolder on the tongue than the nose, it develops much more sweetness, with hard-candy (but never cloying) fruit. Citrus and honey come through from the bouquet, but the grass and herbs are left behind.
FINISH: It's a big encore for such a young and light whiskey. Fruit gets more intense and savory, while some grainy, toasty, almost nutty notes appear.
Glencadam Aged 15 Years (92 proof, or 46 percent alcohol by volume, $85 a 750 ml. bottle)
APPEARANCE: Slightly deeper, more Champagne color. Similar legs.
NOSE: Richer honey bouquet than the 10-year-old. Not so much floral anymore. Meaty fruits like pears give it well-structured sweetness. Also some lively herbs and spices.
PALATE: Scrumptious mix of fruits and spices. The pears from the nose come through loud and clear to be met a strong maltiness as well as exotic and Christmas spices.
FINISH: All of the finish on the 10-year-old holds true with the big brother, but now we get the bonus of a longer ending and a bit of eggnog to go with those Christmas spices.
Glencadam Aged 21 Years (92 proof, or 46 percent alcohol by volume, $199 a 750 ml. bottle)
APPEARANCE: Light gold, with chunky legs.
NOSE: A whiff of fruit and flowers turns sultry and spicy. Still the honey hangs on even as the lemon of the younger iterations turns to orange.
PALATE: Not as much the give-and-take between sweet and spice as the 15-year-old, this whisky is more full-frontal candy with some orange marmalade. The spice appears as pepper. Some sort of minty/eucalyptus note appears as well.
FINISH: The postscript is a bow for all the notes of the palate. The post-postscript is a toastiness that hangs on long enough to reintroduce the pepper.
CIGAR PAIRING: Pinolero Churchill (7 inches by 52 ring gauge, $10, 91 points, February 2014 Cigar Aficionado) The smoke of this Churchill has a meaty, chewy texture that imparts heavy notes of walnut, spice and hard woods to the palate with underpinnings of earth and a touch of red wine.
With the Aged 10 Years: The point of this pairing was a study in contrasts between the savory cigar and the more floral whisky. The spirit immediately transforms with a bigger, meatier flavor. The Glencadam gives back, with its fruity notes seeking out the red wine on the Pinolero and exposing them to greater effect. The cigar does overshadow the whisky somewhat, however.
With the Aged 15 Years: Here, the whisky comes more into play as its spicy notes make a bigger impression on the cigar, adding somewhat to that dimension on the Pinolero. Once again, the cigar imparts a good bit of meat and chewiness to the pairing, while it receives a dose of sweetness in the exchange.
With the Aged 21 Years: Whereas the 15-year-old had been the spice-dominant member of the trio when tasted without a cigar partner, this one seems to take the most advantage in that direction during the cigar pairing. The result is a big boost on the Christmas spice on the 21-year-old. The Pinolero becomes smoother and better nuanced. This is the winning marriage even while we preferred the 15-year-old on its own to the 21 without a smoke.