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Caperdonichs (pronounced: kap-er-DON-ik) story is a sad one about a distillery that never seemed to find the love it was due until it was too late. Initially built in the whisky boom era of the late 1800s by J & J Grant and called Glen Grant 2, it was closed in 1902 after only a few years of initial operation, it did not reopen again until 1965. There followed thirty seven years of consistent production during which time the distillate was used almost exclusively for blends. It was not until recent years that Caperdonich began to appear regularly as a single malt in independent bottlings. It was reputed to have a dull character, fit only for diluting and softening the grain components in blends. Many expressions in recent years have however proved this to be drastically inaccurate.
Closed: 2002 (later demolished)
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit.
Water Source: Caperdonich Burn
Owners: Pernod Ricard
1965-1978: The Fruit Bomb Years
The majority of Caperdonichs available these days are aged expressions from the late sixties and early seventies, an unusual state of affairs considering how desirable aged malts have become in recent years. Caperdonich was originally designed to reproduce the style of Glen Grant and when the distillery was reactivated in 1965 the two stills existing stills were copied for the new pair that was installed, which goes some way to explaining the slight similarity between the two distilleries. When it was reopened the distillery was modernised with steam heated stills and shell condensers, this enabled the whole plant to be run by a workforce of only two men. However it was some years before the trend of shorter fermentation times came into effect and this explains the distinct style that the refurbished distillery produced. Aged Caperdonichs fromthese years display and unmistakable fruit intensity, lots of leafy green fruits, tobacco, earth, clean wood, polish, menthol and further subtle fruit complexitites.Â There are earlier independent expressions bottled in the late eighties. These bottlings display orangey notes, chocolate and some quite old school characteristics of tea, soft fruits and malt. However these bottlings dont shine quite so vividly as recent aged expressions thus proving that Caperdonich was a malt that, like its sibling Glen Grant, really required long aging to bring it to its full glory. The best expressions of this aged style have been bottled by Duncan Taylor in recent years, often at fantastically good prices. There have also been excellent versions by Signatory and Douglas Laing.
1978-2002: Modern Caperdonich
The few bottlings available from the late seventies onwards are not quite as vibrant as the earlier stunners. This may be because the casks that are left from these years need more age to fully develop, but it is more likely that the trends of modernization and longer ferments stripped much of the intense fruit precursors from the distillate. Caperdonich from recent decades tends to be maltier, quite chewy and full of notes like chocolate, spice, cereals, a little smoke and more garden fruit notes. There was some very interesting peated distillate produced in the late nineties, of which a few casks have surfaced. Sadly the distillery was closed in 2002 and demolished only last year so Caperdonich will certainly never re-open now. How much stock remains is uncertain but hopefully enough casks from the latter years of the distillerys life remain so that we can enjoy watching its recent profile evolve and age. What is certain is that recognition came too late for this great, unsung malt and it is one to try now before it goes the same way as many other sadly closed distilleries and becomes too expensive and rare.