Friday, October 3, 2014

Whisky Review: Sovereign Caperdonich 18 Year/1994 for K&L Wines

Caperdonich was the twin to the Glen Grant distillery in Speyside, built in 1898 during the height of the late 19th-century whisky boom. As the collapse came soon after, Caperdonich was closed four years later in 1902. It was only restarted in 1965, and operated for almost forty years, when it was closed for good in 2002.

This particular cask comes to us care of K&L Wines, who had it bottled under the Douglas Laing Sovereign label, which was a first for the States. It was bottled at a fairly hefty 58.4% from a single ex-bourbon cask without chill filtration or coloring.

Thanks to Michael for the sample.

Sovereign Caperdonich 18 Year/1994

Nose: stone fruits, apples, berries, a sherried edge, herbal/vegetal, malt, vanilla, grass/hay, ripe cheese, cardboard, very light floral and oak notes. After adding a few drops of water, the oak starts to come out more, the malt becomes honied, while the fruit and herbal notes integrate with the oak, and some clove/incense notes along with bacon-y peat notes emerge.

Taste: a fair amount of alcohol heat, honied malt sweetness up front, slowly fading into bittersweet berries/stone fruit/apple esters, herbal/vegetal notes, wood smoke, and light oak. After dilution, the oak gains more presence and integrates with the barley sweetness giving it an almost raisiny quality, with the fruit esters and herbs riding on top, plus incense and peat notes right at the back, with salt/umami riding through the background.

Finish: barley grist, mild fruit (apple especially), mildly bitter herbs

This appears to have come from a fairly inactive cask as the wood has had rather minimal influence, despite the spirit resting in it for almost two decades. In this case, I think that's an asset rather than a problem. The lack of oak makes it read as a younger whisky, but without the new make character that can mar those spirits. There isn't a lot of sweetness or vanilla, which is where so many whiskies are now trending as extraction is pushed over time and oxidation. It's austere but still enjoyable. Adding water shifts it into a very different mode, with the oak overriding many of the more delicate smells and flavors, giving it more a more traditionally mature character.

This is, however, all a moot point as the whisky has long since sold out, but I will be keeping my eye out for other well-aged Caperdonichs and Glen Grants.


  1. This was indeed really good! Lots of well-aged whisky out there: have you checked your Glendronach Three Generations? Tomatin Decades qualifies as well (at half the price).

    1. The DT Glendronach is nice, but definitely more wood-driven. Thankfully it's not over-oaked, but it's approaching that point more quickly than some other bourbon cask whiskies I've tried.

    2. I find I like that woody bitterness in Scotch whisky, whereas I can't take much of the very different flavors in overly woody bourbon.

  2. I was very fond of this whisky and mourned when the bottle was empty. Can't really say that of any bottles since then. Those herbal notes were fantastic with that little wedge of peat. I liked the minimal oak as well. If the spirit is this good then I really need to try more Caperdonichs.