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Review

Cadenhead Old Raj
(Blue Label) Gin

Distillery

Wm Cadenhead Ltd. (J & A Mitchell & Co Ltd.), William Cadenhead Distillery, Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland, UK. Imported to the USA by Anchor Distilling Company, San Francisco/San Diego, California.

Website

William Cadenhead and Anchor Distilling.

History

The company was founded in Aberdeen (its administrative office is still there) by George Duncan in 1842 and started out as importers, bottlers and wholesalers. Poet and Brother-in-law William Cadenhead joined the business in 1852 and he acquired the company (renaming it after himself), when George Duncan died in 1858. William Cadenhead died in 1904 and was succeeded by his nephew Robert Duthie, who developed the business into producers of Whisky and Rum. Robert Duthie was a bachelor and when he died in 1931 the business was passed to his two sisters. They entrusted the business to a long-term employee, Ann Oliver, who unfortunately was a poor overall manager and the business slowly declined.

In 1972 the business faced liquidation and sold off most of it’s stock, the biggest wine and spirits sale ever held in Great Britain, to cover its liabilities. The premises, equipments, brands etc were sold to J & A Mitchell & Co Ltd., owners of one of Scotland's oldest distilleries, Springbank Distillery. Mitchell’s had the company incorporated and kept the William Cadenhead name.

This Gin was launched in the 1990's (UK) and in the USA during the late 1990’s. At around $70 it was, at that time, the most expensive Gin on the market and caused a stir with comments deriding the price as ludicrous.

Production

The Gin is made from neutral grain spirit with all the botanicals (except the saffron) steeped for 36 hours before being distilled in a small pot still. The saffron is then added to this distillate, giving it a subtle spice note and it’s color.

The pale yellow/green colored Gin is presented in a tall clear rectangular bottle with a large white label. Blue and black colored text is used including “Old Raj” in large blue letters at the top, and in the middle is a sketch of a Viceroy (Governor-General) of India in full dress uniform of the British Raj.

Category

Distilled Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

55% (110 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$$. Try online at: Laurenti Wines, Merwin Liquors, K&L Wines or Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits

Botanicals

9 botanicals are used including: almond powder, angelica root, cassia bark, coriander seeds, juniper berries, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root and saffron.

Name

The name is a reference back to the days of the British Empire and its rule of India. It was known as the British Raj (Hindi for “Reign”) and spanned from 1858 until 1947/8, when it was granted its own independence and eventually partitioned into three separate counties: Burma (now Myanmar), Pakistan (now Pakistan and Bangladesh) and India.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are juniper, citrus (lemon) and alcohol with faint spice, nuts (almonds) and woody herbaceous notes. On the palate this silky full-bodied spirit has juniper and zesty citrus plus herbaceous spicy notes and a fading alcohol burn. On the close the spiciness is more prevalent with bittersweet citrus notes in the dry finish. This is a nicely balanced Gin with a real strong “bite”.

This is a good distinctive Gin and has a strong alcohol presence when drunk neat but not in a bad way (think Scottish Whisky burn). There are a few people who really like this neat but we suggest for most people to take at least take this with ice, and perhaps consider it best used for mixed drinks. In a Gin & Tonic there is citrus (lemon & orange) and juniper flavors, and whilst it doesn’t seem to have the drying bitterness one usually expects from a G&T, it certainly smoothes out the alcohol. This makes a strong Martini with a lovely warm and spicy flavor, with a subtle hint of saffron and is not one for the faint hearted. It is not a shy or retiring spirit and has great versatility in a range of Gin based mixed drinks; unfortunately any hint of saffron is lost in most mixed drinks.

Compared with its younger sibling Cadenhead Old Raj (Red Label) Gin this is a more powerful version that packs a (alcoholic) punch. This Blue Label version is the more popular of the two and is recommended for real Gin lovers - it’s certainly a good choice for a Martini - and overall is one of the better Gins on the market today.

Awards & Accolades

88 Points, Wine Enthusiast.



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