Whisky and Words Number 52: Edradour 10-year

The Edradour 10-year Distiller’s Edition. Dark and lovely.

I first encountered Edradour whisky at The Ship Inn, located on the water in a little town called Stonehaven. Stonehaven is just north of Dunnottar Castle on the east coast of Scotland. The Ship Inn had a hefty book full of single malts to try and I liked their description of the Edradour 10-year. You can read the description in the photo below. It was a good dram, and I was pleased to find when I returned to the US I could find a 10-year ‘Distillery Edition’ in my state. I do not know if it is the same expression as I had at the Ship inn, as that might have been their cask-strength version, which is also 10-year aged (and non-chill-filtered).

Description of the whisky at the Ship Inn. Click to zoom.

This distillery is small. The Edradour bottle boasts of a little cluster of buildings “only just capable of producing commercial quantities” and goes on to state their yearly production is about as equal as a week at “some other” distilleries. On the back they explain only three people work to make this hand-crafted malt. “Scotland’s little gem” appears on the label and on the bottle itself.

Even in the light, still dark and lovely. 100% sherry cask finished.

On their country-style website, they go on to welcome you to the “smallest traditional distillery in Scotland,” which probably is counting out distillery startups in garages and industrial parks. Indeed, they state that Edradour is the “last stronghold of handmade single malt whisky from a farm distillery still in production today.” The photos show a tiny mash tun and two small stills of shining burnished copper. Wikipedia states the Wash still is 4200 liters and the spirit still only 2200 liters – about 1/10 the size of the spirit stills at Glenfarclas, for example. The whisky is matured and bottled onsite; in a lot of larger distilleries, bottling and even aging (for some or all of the casks) are often done offsite. We can surmise only the malting is done by a larger jobber at Edradour.

What else do we know? Edradour state on their web site that they are investing in their casks. The nose of their 10-year telegraphs sherry-seasoned aging, and I asked the folks at the distillery what casks they use. I heard back the next day from Ms. Schied at Edradour, who explained they use only sherry seasoned casks for this expression.

Nice detail, a wood corker.

Clearly, the small size and handcrafted nature are a big part of Edradour’s appeal. But none of that matters if they don’t produce a good dram. They are up against big outfits like Glenfarclas, whose whiskies are also all-sherry matured, and GlenDronach, whose 12-year is also sherry-cask aged and, like Glenfarclas, produces at a much larger scale. Not to mention Macallan…but I’m out of Glenfarclas the the Mac so we’ll compare to GlenDronach. It’s a good match, being all sherry and bottled at 43% as is the Edradour.

You will notice the nose on the Edradour as soon as you open the bottle. There’s a ton of sherry on the nose of this whisky, It’s a sherry monster. It’s fruity: strawberry, plum, red apple. You get some malt and mineral peat in the background as well. In comparison, the GlenDronach has a good sherry nose on it but it is not as strong, and has a good helping of oak to balance.

On the palate, the Edradour’s mouthfeel is great, smooth and luxurious. It’s caramel and vanilla at first, lightening to golden syrup and then the oak lights up the sides of the tongue with a touch of spice as it levels out. Overall, it’s a smooth, balanced dram with a dry finish.

In comparison, the GlenDronach is livelier on the tongue, fruitier at first and quite spicy, and not bringing the same luxurious mouthfeel. I think the GlenDronach maintained more sherry throughout the dram, and the finish was less bitter than the Edradour, though a little bit harsh.

Edradour Distiller’s Edition, Highland Single Malt, 10 years, 43% ABV

Nose: Loads of sherry, fruit (strawberry, plum, red apple). A backing of malt and mineral peat as well.
Palate: Smooth as silk. Caramel and vanilla at the fore, fading to golden syrup with a solid helping of oak to balance. The tannins from the oak are solid but not unpleasant.
Finish: Toasted oak and vanilla predominate at first. Bitterness from the tannins lingers and for such an unctuous palate, it has quite a long, dry finish.

Bottom Line: It’s a very nice whisky, with a great fruity nose that does not quite translate to the palate. Instead, you get a creamy palate of caramel and vanilla, which could have been overly sweet if not for the very stout oak cleaning things up. In fact, the Edradour reminds me of the older version of Bunnahabhain and may well usurp the Bunna’s place for my ‘luxury sherry’ dram. The GlenDronach is an interesting complement and contrast: where the Edradour is smooth, the GlenDronach brings more spice. On the finish, though the Edradour has shoulders of oak, it was gentler; dry but not harsh.

Author: H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.

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