Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Brechin: once a true whisky city with two distilleries

When you think of authentic whisky cities, one might quickly mention Campbeltown, Dufftown, Rothes or Elgin. Today however, we focus on the east coast Royal Burgh of Brechin for our Something Special Saturday. Home to the almost 200 years old Glencadam Distillery, and also the place where the old ghost of the North Port Distillery wanders. Located just 2 minutes apart from each other, one of them got a visit by the Whisky Grim Reaper and stopped production in 1983, only to be demolished ten years later and make way for a supermarket. Not an uncommon fate for distilleries actually. Today, we are going to taste 3 single malts from Brechin.

We kick off with Glencadam. Ever since tasting the surprising and award-winning Reserva PX, we keep a closer eye on the distillery. So, to follow the progress, today we pour the Reserva Andalucia to make a comparison. After that, we move on to a rather unique bottling done by Signatory Vintage. For the briefest of moments, Glencadam was mothballed at the beginning of this century. Before the rise to much more renown today started, Signatory quickly bottled a Glencadam in their Silent Stills series. We have it in the glass right now!

North Port (or sometimes known as just “Brechin”) you would be forgiven for not knowing at all. Official bottlings were scarce, only a few in different formats in the Rare Malts Selection, and one official Special Release that I had a soft spot for. When I got my chance to buy a sample from Norbert Tebarts, I put it in the basket. I don’t think I ever tasted more than five North Port malts.

Glencadam Reserva Andalucia, oloroso sherry cask finish, bottled at 46 % abv

Makeup: Okay, pay attention, this whisky was already matured in sherry and bourbon casks, then vatted together for a final marrying period in oloroso sherry casks (as a finish). Glencadam already released three years’ worth of bottlings, mine is from 2021.

General impressions: More of a classic sherried whisky when compared to the frivolous PX version, and definitely more vinegary. Still, a fresh and vanilla influenced smell, before the sweet & sour of the sherry casks takes centre stage. Some marzipan and candied fruit. Summery, fresh, but also with a distinct Highland brooding note. The taste revolves around wood spices, nothing overly sweet, making it a solid dram. The finish is a tad too bitter to my taste.

Conclusion: The second Glencadam I try in these wood series and again it does not disappoint. Unlike the PX sibling, this one does miss that extra notch to make it stand out in the crowd.  

81 points.


Glencadam 1972, 29 years old, bottled at 52,5 % abv by Signatory Vintage

Makeup: Single cask # 7821 produced 298 bottles of this 1972 vintage Glencadam. Distilled on 6 October of that year, it was bottled on 29 October 2001, indeed at a time Glencadam was silent.

General impressions: Rather closed on the nose, with not much more than wood smoke. Really needs some time to breathe. Did not seem to be a very active cask, so lots of room for the spirit. After a while some vanilla comes through, and lots of spices. The taste swings back and forth between bitter wood notes and stone fruits, with a nice hint of lychees. With water the modest nature of this Glencadam remains. Some hint of rhubarb that I had the pleasure of tasting in a Dublin-made gin just recently. Yeah, the closest I have seen a whisky come to gin. Interesting.

Conclusion: A bit disappointingly lacking complexity after almost 30 years in the cask, but in itself still has some interesting characteristics.

Score: 85 points


Brechin (North Port), 28 years old, bottled at 53,3 % abv

Makeup: Diageo released only 2040 bottles of this ultra rare distillery in the Special Releases of 2005. Vintage 1977 North Port production matured for 28 years in refill American oak casks.

General impressions: So thrilling to taste this malt again after almost 20 years. It was at a whisky party in Utrecht where this bottling was truly considered a dark horse among the releases of 2005, together with the equally lovely Convalmore 28 years old. On first impression, this Brechin is not all that different from the Glencadam 1972. Did some casks get mixed up? Anyway, this malt displays more grassy notes, with someone rolling lemons through it. Not very expressive, weirdly reminiscent of another era in selecting whisky for bottling. 

‘You get what we have, deal with it.’ I am sure nowadays somebody would have thrown this whisky in a sherry (or wine, brr) cask to add fragrance. But after 28 long years, the liquid has quieted down, and that is something very rare to find in your glass. Wood impact is minimal – but we are still only nosing!

The taste packs a lot of punch! It has perfect vanilla sweetness, pronounced wood spices and something modestly tropical on the finish. Now we are talking. There is also something industrial to this Brechin, rather unique in style. With water it becomes more floral and vanilla fresh. The taste becomes much sweeter, like candy, but again – like with the Glencadam – I cannot not think of a gin, balancing between fruity notes and herbal bitterness. What a style!

Conclusion: At times more linked to the Rare Malts Selection of fierce whisky, instead of something that fits the mold of the Special Releases. This 28 years old whisky needs time to open up, and you need to help it along too, but when you make it work it is a rare and unique beast.

Score: 89 points

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