Monday, March 9, 2015

Review - Craigellachie 19 years old

This is the travel retail exclusive bottling for the Craigellachie range that was released last year.  This was the first range of malts to be released by the distillery and was part of a wider programme of single malt releases by owners John Dewar & Sons, part of the Bacardi group. This programme, entitled The Last Great Malts, aims to showcase Craigellachie and the other Scottish distilleries owned by the group - Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Macduff and Royal Brackla. Only the Macduff and Royal Brackla now remain to be released, and both will appear later this year.

Craigellachie was founded in 1891 by Alexander Edward and Peter Mackie, and was designed by renowned Victorian distillery architect Charles Doig. It is located in the Speyside village of the same name and translates as 'rocky hill' from Gaelic. The distillery sits on that rocky hill and looks over the village. Craigellachie is large and has an annual production capacity of around five million litres. It is one of the few distilleries remaining to use wormtub condensers and this gives the spirit a characteristic heavier edge. Most of the whisky produced is used in the Dewar's range of blends, although occasional releases do turn up through independent bottlers.

The 19 years old expression is to be exclusive to the travel retail sector.  The regular retail range includes age statements at 13, 17 and 23 years old with a 31 years old bottling available later this year. The 19 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered with a recommended retail price of £100/€120.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an interesting combination of fruity and savoury aromas.  There is an immediate hit of crisp green apples and hard pears, and these go up against a distinct damp earthiness and ginger root.  There are hints of tropical fruit aromas, especially dried mango, and a whiff of sulphuric coal smoke in the background.

On the palate this has an initial creamy and full mouth feel, before a sugary and slightly fizzy lemon sherbet-like note begins to develop.  There are notes of vanilla, golden syrup and green apples (although they are more reminiscent of cooked or stewed apples now, rather than the crisp fresh ones evident on the nose).  Underneath is some pleasant malted barley and this is joined by dried tropical notes (think of mango and pineapple especially) and warming hints of ginger and cinnamon.  With time, the sulphuric coal smoke develops significantly and becomes quite sooty.  This creates a slightly confused set of characteristics that battle for attention.

The finish is of decent length and becomes increasingly dry and warming as the fruity and sweeter elements begin to fade.  This allows the wood spices and ginger to take hold, and they combine with the sulphuric smoke to give an unusual and slightly metallic ending.

What's the verdict?
This whisky is a strange and intriguing beast.  There are a number of interesting elements - the sweetness, fruitiness, spiciness and sulphur/metallic - that give depth and character to the whisky.  However these elements also create a difficult and uneasy juxtaposition at times.

It is good to see each of the new ranges from John Dewar/Bacardi having a travel retail exclusive included and also ones that buck the current 'no age statement' trend that seems to be sweeping through the category.  We look forward to seeing what is released from Macduff and Royal Brackla to complete The Last Great Malts set.

1 comment:

John Speights said...

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Let me know. Thanks.