Thursday, October 9, 2014

New releases - The Craigellachie range

The Craigellachie range is a brand new series of bottlings and represents the first range of single malts to ever be released by the distillery.  The launch is part of a wider programme of single malt releases by Craigellachie's owners John Dewar & Sons, which is part of the Bacardi group.  This programme is entitled The Last Great Malts and aims to showcase Craigellachie and the four other Scottish distilleries owned by the group - Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Macduff and Royal Brackla.

The current Aberfeldy range has been revamped, expanded and repackaged, while the Aultmore range will be available from November.  A selection of Royal Brackla single malts will be launched next Spring and a range from Macduff, which will be released as The Deveron, will follow in the Summer.

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 said 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, sulphury edge.  Most of the whisky produced is used in the Dewar's range of blends.

This new Craigellachie range will see a number of expressions of different ages - 13, 17, 19, 23 and 31 years old.  The 13, 17 and 23 year olds have recently appeared in specialist whisky retailers and are priced at £50, £95 and £385 respectively.  The 19 years old expression is to be exclusive to the travel retail sector, while the 31 years old will be available next year.  Price of these two were not included in the press pack.  They are all released at 46% ABV and are non chill-filtered. 

Our good friend Tobias Gorn, co-founder of bespoke Scotch whisky travel specialist Chapman & Gorn, recently attended a launch event for the range in London, which was hosted by Stephen Marshall.  He is the brains behind the range and Global Brand Ambassador for The Last Great Malts.

Tobias' tasting notes & thoughts

Craigellachie 13 years old
The nose - single cream, vanilla ice cream, light, starts with slightly floral and bakery notes. Watermelon? Bit shy but very elegant. Needs time in the glass to get a meaty quality out. It grows to be fairly big with time. Esters and freshness, youthful. The palate - light, sweet start, fresh sour mid-palate, vanilla and apple pie and a creamy finish. Touch of wood spice and cinnamon. Refreshing light expression. Elegant but a bit shy. Needs a little time and water.  Fresh hogshead/barrel and sherry butt finishing.  Exciting, nice.

Craigellachie 17 years old 
The nose - baking apple, quince, honey melon and vanilla. Notes of age, light and fresh. Suggestion of sweetness, light honey? Pineapple and sweet cream. The palate - big spicy build up, more pronounced, big creamy mid-palate and a longer warm finish without being too hot. Medium length. Loads to offer. Fresh hogshead/barrel and butt finishing again. Lovely but is up against established brands of a similar age.  Intense and complex. Great dram with a different profile. It is 'gold medal' worthy.

Craigellachie 23 years old
The nose - wood spices, cedar, vanilla and melons. Bit of rancio/nutty aged notes, pronounced and complex with elegance. Perfumed, floral. Impressive. Excellent nose. Very lovable. The palate - sweet fresh start, big fresh floral linen and citrus fruit on the mid palate, bit of cocoa powder, background sulphur and savoury notes.  Earthy? Long finish with warm wood spices. Warm... Well over £300, you will decide if it is worth it? It is very charming and well aged ... Love the refill hogshead approach. A superb dram.

Conclusion - these malts are a bit different, lovely and exciting with a very good technical approach.  Well worth a try but they come at a certain cost, especially the 23 year old. They do not have a 'universal' taste or profile and will therefore not please everybody. Only time will tell.

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