“I am a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a pita. Why the pita? That counts as another mystery.”
Whenever I hear the word Enigma, I can’t help but be reminded of this quote by Demetri Martin. Which in itself is a play on Winston Churchill’s famous quote. But I’m sure neither of those were the inspiration for Cadenhead’s new Enigma series. They initially released two whiskies. One is a 15-year-old Campbeltown Blended Malt, the other a 25-year-old Blended Scotch Whisky.
The whisky Cadenhead’s bottles in their Enigma series is “unusual, hard to quantify, perhaps even slightly contradictory.” Their own words, not mine. It certainly makes sense for the 25-year-old Blended Scotch, which Cadenhead’s doesn’t have a great deal of information on, except that it matured fully in refill sherry butts. I don’t have much more to add other than my tasting notes below.
Cadenhead’s Enigma Blended Malt 15 Years is certainly more quantifiable. It’s a Campbeltown Malt, for one. Most importantly, we know the exact make-up of this whisky. This is a blend of 15-year-old Hazelburn and 16-year-old Kilkerran from ex-bourbon casks. Either of those components on its own would send many whisky drinkers running to shops. Will the sum of these two turn out greater than its parts? One can only hope.
Cadenhead’s Enigma Blended Malt 15 Years (48.2%, OB, 2023)
Nose: It’s rather shy at first. Somewhat flinty with mineral touches and a whiff of ozone. Pretty grain-forward too, this has an almost farmy, cereal-esque quality not unlike you’d expect from Bruichladdich. Given some time, fruitier and sweeter elements start popping up. Yet they remain subtle. Hints of golden syrup, mango, tinned pineapple and orange. Taste: Oily mouthfeel. The arrival is a melange of exotic fruits (guave, pineapple) along with gentle notes of cracked black pepper and breakfast tea. A grainy, farmyard-y signature remains throughout. There’s only the tiniest hint of soot. Finish: Medium length. Subtle stewed fruits, some chalk and lime.
Surprisingly, this initially doesn’t scream Hazelburn or Kilkerran. But given time, it’s especially the Springbank (Hazelburn) components that float to the top. I expect this to develop in the bottle quite well over the next few months. If you can find it, the Cadenhead’s Enigma Blended Malt 15 Years is a steal at the original retail price.
Cadenhead’s Enigma Blended Scotch 25 Years (41.4%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Hints of resin, some oak shavings and a touch of triple sec. Then a good amount of fudge, stroopsoldaatjes, toffee and mush banana. It’s the grain whisky that takes centre stage, but it also noses older than its years and the sherry casks have left an impression. Slivers of leather-bound books, cigar boxes and dried fruits. Taste: Interestingly, the palate is much darker than expected. By that, I mean that I get flavours of roasted coffee beans, dark (almost burnt) caramel and chocolate-covered raisins, as well as plums. There’s a gentle spiciness, hints of honeycomb and pine resin too. Finish: Medium. Lingering hints of chocolate, orange pith and oak spices.
The Cadenhead's Enigma Blended Scotch 25 Years is just slightly past it's prime, but much less than I expected. The grain spirit demands most attention – there's not much here that points towards malt whisky. But I suspect not may people would mind.