With current prices there aren’t many (if any) independent bottlers that I would blindly buy whisky from, but Decadent Drinks a.k.a the WhiskySponge might just be one of the very few. If there’s one thing I know, company director Angus Macraild does not compromise on quality, proven by a trio of recent releases from Tullibardine, Clynelish (Candlekitty) and Highland Park (Old Orkney).
Firstly, the Candlekitty 2010 12 Years was released a few months ago. It’s a monniker for Clynelish based on its waxy profile and official logo, a Scottish wildcat. The 2010 vintage is slowly gaining ground and becoming sought after. This particular release, Edition No. 78, matured in a single refill barrel.
Secondly, the Old Orkney Malt 2009 13 Years has a bit of a story to it. Decadent Drinks purchased the Old Orkney brand a few years ago, and this is the first proper and official use since it adorned a blended Scotch whisky in the 1990s. Old Orkney was a brand name once used by Stromness, a long gone distillery on Orkney. You can read more here.
Finally, the Tullibardine 2006 17 Years is the latest release from Decadent Drinks. It matured in a ridiculously active first-fill sherry hogshead that has obliterated the Tullibardine spirit, but left a delectable sherry bomb in its place.
Candlekitty (Clynelish) 2010 12 Years (57.1%, WhiskySponge, Edition No. 78)
Nose: Bright and crisp. A quick hit of petrichor, minerals and classic waxy notes, as well as pear skin, cotton candy grapes and mangoes. There’s a whiff of burlap and bread dough too. Fairly rich and well-balanced. Taste: Fatty, oily and waxy with sweet, stewed fruits and an arrival highlighted by (gentle) notes of white pepper and chalk. Then the tart fruits enter the stage. Whispers of lemon zest, acidic lychees, and grapefruit too. And just a touch of peanut skins. Finish: Medium to long. Candle wax, pepper, and wet pebbles with a sprinkle of salt.
Reminiscent of some the earliest Clynelish 1997 I tasted, which were maybe 14 or 15-year-old at the time. These batches aren’t always the most polished, but ooze character and individuality. Just wonderful. This might be the only place it is still available (at a premium)
Old Orkney Malt 2009 13 Years (50%, Decadent Drinks, 2023)
Nose: Lively and invigorating. Opening up on butterscotch and beeswax along with mush bananas, tinned pineapple and pink grapefruit. Then it zags into a more floral territory, along with notes of chalk, dried seaweed and soft herbs. Also a touch of pine, yet not a lot of smoke. Taste: Very crisp with an elegant honey sweetness, but also a subtle fresh peatiness, damp wood smoke and just so much citrus. Limes and lemons. Also a good amount of chalk, a gentle salinity and straw. Finish: Fairly long with a pinch of salt and white pepper, along with coastal peat and chalk.
Maybe not the most complex palate, but wonderfully concentrated, pointed and very idiosyncratic. And so very easy to drink. What’s not to like? Still available from Decadent Drinks.
Tullibardine 2006 17 Years (52.7%, Decadent Drinks, Edition No. 79)
Nose: Ooof Madone! All about the cask, that’s for sure. Succulent cherries, aceto di balsamico, figs, raisins and blackcurrants, as well as hazelnuts with some pralines, Demerara sugar, damp oak, forest floor and cigar boxes. There’s a touch of coffee grounds, cinnamon and fennel too, but the sweetness and fruitiness remain in the lead. Taste: A rich, thick mouthfeel. Okay, this is honestly where it almost becomes too much. Plenty of treacle and some sticky toffee pudding but with a sprinkle of salt. Also more figs and dark, jammy fruits. Then toasted bread, cured meats, a touch of fennel, dark chocolate and crème de cassis. Let’s not forget prunes and raisins, as well as a touch of cappuccino. Adding water highlighted a more tannic/spicy side for me. Finish: Long sweet fruits, sandalwood and filter coffee. Intense.
While nosing, I can't say my mind never wandered to older Macallan. It certainly has a dash of the old school, this Tullibardine. Yet, it's also intense in a way that I've not experienced often. It walks a very fine line. As good as it is, a bottle of this would last fairly long in my household. This is a sherry bomb for very specific moments. Like a dish that you love, look forward to finally devouring again, but then need several weeks or months to recover from before you feel like eating it again. Sold out at Decadent Drinks' webshop, but it may turn up at some retailers in certain markets.