Caperdonich is a lost distillery that was built across the road from Glen Grant. It was called Glen Grant 2 for a time, before being renamed, as two distilleries cannot have the same name. Caperdonich was in fact the first of the ‘extension’ distilleries, a new distillery built next to an existing one in order to answer the rising demand at that time. Though it’s a lost distillery, you can still find, at a decent price, releases from Caperdonich, and we’ll try today a Caperdonich 18 years old Peated.
Glen Grant 2 was created across the road from Glen Grant, as I said, in 1898. Glen Grant was a popular whisky, and it needed to augment its capacity. Unfortunately, the new century made the enthusiasm for whisky go to gloominess as the demand fell down, and it would not be the first time it happens, the whisky market being quite cyclical. And as several distilleries built in the same period, Glen Grant 2 closed down, just four years after being opened. To be precise, distillation was shut down, but the kilns, malting floors and warehouses were still operated.
More than 60 years later, Glen Grant was doing well, the demand was high, especially from Italy, and Glen Grant needed to produce more. Glen Grant 2 was restarted in 1965, and two years later, a pair of stills was added to the initial two. In 1977, Glen Grant 2 was renamed to Caperdonich.
The distillery ran until 2002. The previous year saw Pernod Ricard acquire the distillery, but immediately after, in 2002, they shut down the distillery again. The site was sold to the coppersmiths Forsyth’s, whose premises are located next door. The site was then demolished in 2011 for Forsyth’s to expand. One of the pair of stills went to the Belgian Owl distillery (I’ll let you guess where it’s from), while the other pair went to Falkirk distillery, a distillery established in the Lowland region.
Even though the distillery is now demolished, you can still find six expressions: peated and unpeated whiskies of 18, 21 or 25 years of age.
Caperdonich 18 Years Old Peated Review
Since this Caperdonich was bottled in August 2020, it must be coming from one of the latest distillations before the closing of the distillery. Its Peated make was matured for 18 years in American oak barrels (Quercus Alba) before being bottled at 48% abv, without chill filtration, but probably with coloring. It’s released in small batches, and the one I’m reviewing is was batch CP/003. You’ll be able to find between €150 and €170, mostly on German shops but also a few Belgian and French ones.
Deep copper. But probably fake.
Neat: Intense peat immediately. My first thought is that it feels a bit like a Caol Ila, for how the smoke smells. There are some citrus notes, but nothing much else for now. Let’s let the glass rest for a moment before giving it another sniff. Hints of menthol, some brine, but that’s pretty one-dimensional. Even after an hour in the glass, nothing more.
With water: same, but maybe hints of soap?
Peaty and slight sweet arrival, then it becomes a bit spicy, with chilli and tabasco sauce. Quite smoky. Hints of mint, cold ash, maybe oranges, honey and smoked lemon slices.
With water: Sweeter now. Smoked fruits, a bit of chocolate, and some ginger on the back palate.
Smoke, mint, chocolate, long.
I find this Caperdonich a bit too one-dimensional, as the peat hides almost everything. I’d be curious to try the same but with unpeated barley to get a view of the character of that now lost distillery. I fear that the spirit lacked a bit of character to be able to handle the peat. Now, an 18yo from a closed distillery for about €150 is getting quite rare.
Lost distilleries get more and more hype for several reasons. The increasing scarcity of bottles, since the distillery’s production is over, as bottles are drunk, raises their ‘value’ as they become rarer. And usually, be it true or not, rarer is better, right? Rarer is definitely more expensive, though. And the whisky drinkers world definitely has that in mind. While some distilleries were mostly malt work horses for blends, sometimes they did some very solid single malts, just not given enough visibility. As the distillery owners release those old casks as single malts, using replacements for their blends as the available liquid diminishes, it allows drinkers to discover – or rediscover – hidden gems. Either through new official bottlings or via independent bottlers. Add a – very heavy – pinch of marketing on top, and that lost distillery, completely ignored when it was in production, becomes a new shiny star that everyone wants and love. Some of those distilleries find then the love they were deserving but deprived by a different strategy or the lack of care from their owners.
Back to Caperdonich, they did not get the aura and the hype of Brora or Port Ellen, so that helps keep the price down. I don’t know how much stock is left for Pernod Ricard or indy bottlers to release, but their whiskies don’t reach the summits the ones from Port Ellen, Brora or Karuizawa reached. And back to the whisky I’ve just tried, it’s definitely not on par with those now legendary names. Not this one. I hope however I’ll be able to try other releases from Caperdonich in the future and maybe be able to see more clearly its character.
Thanks Eric for the sample.