Glencadam is set in the Eastern Highland region of Scotland which is often overlooked in favour of the nearby Speyside region. Distilleries that endure across the Eastern Highlands today are survivors after the herd was thinned in the 1980’s. Glencadam itself is the sole existing distillery today in the Kingdom of Angus. For the Glencadam, life began in 1825 when it was founded by George Cooper as the green grass shoots were sown with the passing of the Excise Act. His tenure was short-lived lasting only 2 years, which was all too commonplace following the introduction of the Excise Act.
Many would be owners leapt at the possibility to become legal distillers, but several had not envisaged the cost of maintaining a working distillery whilst waiting for their Scotch to mature. David Scott took over in 1827, before in 1852 Alexander Thompson attempted to give the distillery some stability with the formation of the Glencadam Distillery Company in 1857. The merry-go-round of owners continues until Glasgow blending firm Gilmour, Thomson & Company assume ownership in 1891. Finally, there is some order at Glencadam and we can move into the 1900’s.
The distillery moves into a corporate guise with the arrival of Hiram Walker & Sons in 1954, who were expanding their interests across the industry. They set about modernising the distillery in 1954 bring some much needed investment and again in 1959 with the replacement of the existing 2 stills. Shortly after this, the whisky is licensed to George Ballantine and Sons for their blending purposes, before Hiram Walker is acquired by Allied-Lyons in 1987. Then a new vision as Allied Domecq takes over in 1994, with Glencadam being mothballed in 2000. Not seeing a future for the distillery, which still operates on 2 stills and has never enjoyed a reasonable single malt presence, Allied Domecq agrees to sell Glencadam in 2003 to Angus Dundee Limited.
Thankfully that’s it for the owner journey, as at last the distillery finds a home and reopens in 2003 with plans to establish a series of single malts in the marketplace. The first of these is the 15-year-old and over the coming years more age statement releases arrive with the key features being affordability, unchill-filtered and bottled at 46% strength. Glencadam does not enjoy a huge following but it’s whiskies are well priced and varied, with the 25 and 30-year-old expressions being joined recently by a 17-year-old Port and a 19-year-old Oloroso finish. The most recent addition to the range is the 1825 Origin, which is a No Age Statement release bottled at a lower 40% strength.
The distillery hit the headlines in 2016 when it was flooded after 2 weeks of heavy rain in the local area. The site of the distillery means that it has been prone to flooding several times due to its historical location; a similar problem exists at GlenDronach. Fortunately, no whisky was lost during the flooding with the only damage being to the stillroom area and the electrical system. The output today remains a modest 1.3 million litres and the distillery is a rarity in Scotland as it still only features a single pair of stills. Most other distilleries were modernised and extended in the 1950’s and thereafter, but Glencadam retains an unspoilt charm. Warehousing exists on site as do the blending facilities for Angus Dundee who produce a variety of blends along with their bottling line.
Glencadam is an interesting whisky to experience and discover whatever the age. It’s not an immediately accessible malt and requires time, patience and experimentation with water to truly unlock its delights and move away from the barley and wood notes. Once you have unlocked its secrets, it is a delightful whisky and a secret favourite amongst many enthusiasts.