An Interview with Cadenhead’s Mark Watt

It’s Lent, meaning that I will take a break from rum and alcohol in general until Easter. I am not a religious person but I believe that taking a break like this is very important from time to time, especially if you’d call Rum (or Whisky or whatever) your hobby. To keep the blog running during the next couple of weeks, I have already prepared a few very special reviews and other articles such as this interview with Cadenhead’s Mark Watt. Enjoy!

Hey Mark, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Would you perhaps briefly tell us who you are, what’s your role at Cadenhead’s and what’s your history with Rum and Whisky?

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Mark Watt with some Samples.

My name is Mark Watt and I am Director of Sales at Wm Cadenhead Ltd, I have been with the company for 5 and a half years. I have been involved with Whisky all my life – I grew up at Macallan Distillery and have worked with whisky since I started working behind the bar at the Craigellachie Hotel at aged 18. I was working at the famous whisky bar that I was first introduced to Rum as I had a very memorable evening with guest who worked at Mount Gay and they took me through their rums. My focus has always however been on Whisky but I am always keen to continue my rum education.

We are well aware of the fact that Rum is playing only the second fiddle. Nevertheless I get the impression that the frequency of Cadenhead’s Rum releases has decreased over time while other bottlers seem to be picking up the pace. What are your thoughts on this?

I have been in charge of the rum bottlings for the past 5 years and if anything the number of rums we have been bottling has increased over this time, they perhaps have gone a little under the radar as they are only promoted through our shops and we don’t really promote through press releases etc – mainly focusing through our club members.

Rumors have it that Cadenhead’s owned the largest stock of old Demerara Rums for quite some time. Has Cadenhead’s been the importer back then? How about today? Do you even keep Rum in your warehouses these days or do you simply bottle what you buy from brokers?

We historically have always been involved with rums – going back to when we were founded in 1842, we do continue to purchase rums through brokers and these are often matured for several years further in Campbeltown.

In case you import or store Rum in your warehouses, do you also sell to other independet bottlers?

We do not sell anything to other bottlers or to people for private label.

After Christie’s has liquidated Cadenhead’s bottlings in 1972 the company has been sold to J & A Mitchell & Co Ltd. What has changed in the philosophy of Cadenead’s since then?

I would say the philosophy has remained the same or if anything been strengthened that it is what is in the bottle that counts, going back to our old slogan of By Test the Best.  Meaning we do with all our products whether it be Rum, Whisky, Gin, Cognac etc it is bottled because we like it and think it is good not just because we think we can sell it.

Why is it that we never get the number of bottles for your releases? Is there any chance to get these information in the future? Perhaps also the angel’s share?

We are looking to add further information to our rum labels.  I am not sure what you mean by Angel share in relation to information for the label?

With Whisky we see that many distilleries and bottlers play around with different casks and finishes a lot. Is Rum less suited to these practices? Why don’t we see more of that with rum and why are you not doing it for instance?

It is something that Cadenheads have done in the past – famously finishing rum in ex-Laphroaig casks.  We have several projects running at the minute but nothing concrete that I can tell you about.

How come that you do not disclose the distilleries for the Green Label series? Is that part of the deal with the distilleries or your own choice?

Sometimes we have agreements in place not to disclose the distilleries in question hence why we don’t put the name of the distillery on the label, that said we historically with the green label rum have not put the name of the distillery on the label and therefore sometimes we put rums that we could name the distillery into this range.  The green label rum is bottled at 46% and sometimes we feel that a particular rum is better at 46% rather than at cask strength and therefore the rum goes into the green label range.

Generally I think Cadenhead’s is among those with the fairest prices in the Rum business. Neverthless the recent Cadenhead’s Enmore 1990 26YO sold for about 235€ whereas the Pout Mourant 2003 14YO sold for only a fraction of that for example. What explains these price differences? Is it the scarcity of old Rums or really the cost involved (storage and angel’s share)? 

Simply a case of how much it costs us to buy, Enmore is becoming increasing scarce these days so it is getting harder to find hence prices increase.

If there’s anything else you have to say or if there’s anything that might be of interest to the rum scene please feel free to free to let us know!

I would say there is much more cross over these days with rum and whisky drinkers, and spirit drinkers in general.  When I started in the drink industry back in 1998 people were rum drinkers or whisky drinkers or brandy drinkers – now there is much more cross over with people looking to try a multitude of spirit styles as long as they are of quality.

Thanks a lot for answering my questions! 

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