#3.1 Campbeltown Loch: I wish you were whisky!

A warehouse at the end of the road (day 1)


Billie Joe Armstrong wrote: “Wake me up, when September ends”, but he forgot to add: “because we’ll be in Campbeltown!”

(Jump to Day 2 or Day 3 and 4)

Since our last trip to Speyside and Highlands almost two months have gone by. In the meantime, we: worked, got covid, recovered from covid, ran, got our smell and taste back, worked a bit more, a couple of tastings, some tenth phone calls to British Gas, worked again. The usual.

We are very excited for this trip: it is the first time we are going to do a “whisky holiday” as part of a big group, and not just the two of us or with a couple of friends. We went as part of the Facebook-based Edinburgh Whisky Group, managed by the tireless Justine from Kask Whisky. Since the first lockdown this group has grown substantially (guess not much else to do, uh?) and we did a good number of tastings, often directed by brand ambassadors or distillers. We had planned this weekend for a while, and we decided that Campbeltown was the perfect destination for a group of whisky aficionados: 3 distilleries, 2 independent bottlers, a long whisky related history and heritage, enough pubs and restaurants, and everything at walking distance. What else?

For the two of us it is the second time we land in this hidden gem of a place. The first time was exactly 3 years before, at the end of September 2018, when our whisky journey was still in its infancy. That was also the first time we visited a scotch whisky distillery together (Glen Scotia, specifically), and the Warehouse tasting we took at the time was quite a surprise.

Group A is in town!

Back to the trip, being a large group, we had to take part to some tastings separately because of Covid-related safety issues. We were in the first group (group A), which meant we needed to be in Campbeltown in the early afternoon, which in turn meant we had to leave Leith in the early morning. Justine came to pick as up at 9.30, sharp as razor, with her glorious car Clifford (Cliff for friends). The ride was smooth (not according to some squirrels, apparently) and quick, not too much traffic in Glasgow, and no queue for gasoline (at that time the biggest news on the British press was the gasoline shortage, which thankfully didn’t affect us). We stopped in Inveraray for a quick lunch: in line with our Italian culture, we prepared food at home. Less in line with that, we prepared Spanish tortilla sandwiches, which are always lovely. Back in the car, the second leg was even smoother than the first one. So around 3pm, we finally arrived at our destination! So excited!

We parked the car at the Ardshiel Hotel, but instead of doing the check-in we immediately went to the Cadenhead’s shop, just to look around on what was there (we felt like kids in a candy store after months of diet). We resisted to the temptation to buy anything rght away (HOLD!) and we moved on to the site of our first activity: the Cadenhead’s Warehouse tasting! Those sweet 7 words every person wants to hear the most: “Please, follow me down to the warehouse”!

Casks pyramids outside Springbank, always a nice view.

The first time we attended this tasting was in 2018, and we remember that we had at least 7 or 8 drams in a very informal setting, with the guide drawing the liquid directly from the casks. This time the set up is a bit more structured (everyone has a well-distanced barrel holding a glass and a bottle of water in front of them), and Jenna McIntosh, usually their sales manager, is going to guide us through the 6 drams for this one. First off, a delicious Glen Elgin, 12 years of age in a first fill ex-bourbon cask, and a 9y Glen Garioch, with 3 years spent in a Tawny port cask, betrayed by a pink-ish colour common to other drams matured in similar casks. Moving on, a grain: Cameronbridge distilled and casked in 1989 and a 18y Glenfarclas, coca-cola coloured because of a 2y finish in an ex-PX sherry cask. Finally, the two peated drams: one just lightmy peated, a 12y “Orkney”, the other quite peated 9y Caol Ila, both in ex-bourbon casks.

Cadenhead’s tasting aka best way to start a whisky trip.

While the Glen Elgin (very clean dram, crispy with vanilla and coconut notes from the bourbon cask very prominent) and the Caol Ila were both delicious, they were somehow “known” to us (we have a SMWS 13y Glen Elgin in our cabinet and a 10y Thompson Brothers Caol Ila, both very similar in taste), the Glen Garioch and the “Orkney” were something new to us, which we quite appreciated: fruity and spiritely the first, farmyard-y and smoky the latter. The grain was delicious too, as many grains of that age, while the Glenfarclas was a bit disappointing for a dram that old: thin and not very flavourful.

A full cage…so rare!

After the tasting, we could grab a couple of bottles at the Springbank shop, one from the cage (a friend’s request) and the 12y cask strength batch 23 released the week before (and, of course, sold out online), before getting the tasting’s bottles at the Cadenhead’s shop. We had dinner at the Argyll Arms pub (coincidentally, the hotel where we stayed on our first trip in 2018) and a couple of drams back at the Ardshiel Hotel. For a first day on holiday, that was plenty, and we called it a night!

Cadenhead’s Warehouse tasting

Price: £35.00 pp
(September 2021)

Tasting: 6 cask strength drams. This time ours were: 12y Glen Elgin, 9y Glen Garioch, 32y Cameronbridge, 18y Glenfarclas, 12y “Orkney” and 9y Caol Ila, plus a “perfect dram” glass (similar to the Whisky Exchange ones).

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: very good

Highlights: the drams

Things we did not like: nothing

Link: https://www.cadenhead.scot/

Author: Dramming Around

A pretend-to-be-young Italian couple on a quest to discover whisk(e)y distilleries and their golden nectar

%d bloggers like this: