Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Review / John Crabbie & Co. 1992 Single Cask

This whisky is a new limited edition single malt from the Edinburgh-based brand of John Crabbie & Co. It joins a core range that features Crabbie's Yardhead and age statements of 8, 12, 15 and 30 years old, plus a growing number of such single cask releases. These have recently included the 1994 25 years old single cask from the Tobermory distillery on the isle of Mull and a 50 years old single cask from an un-named Islay distillery, both of which are still available.

This single cask was distilled at an un-named distillery in Speyside during 1992 and bottled at 28 years of age in 2020. The only clue given is that the distillery is located in the Livet Glen, which narrows the possibilities down to a handful. The whisky has been exclusively matured in an ex-bourbon cask and this has yielded just 260 bottles. It is released at 45.6% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour.

The Crabbie name has been associated with the Scotch whisky industry since the early 1800s with John Crabbie (pictured, left) considered an early pioneer of whisky blending with his links to numerous distilleries around Scotland. This included owning the now-closed distilleries of Westfield in East Lothian and Yardheads in Leith, plus Balmenach in Speyside. After disappearing in the early 20th century, John Crabbie & Co. has now been reborn under the ownership of Halewood Artisanal Spirits. They purchased the brand name in 2007.

This rebirth includes the building of the new Chain Pier distillery in Granton, Edinburgh and this is designed to produce single malt and single grain whisky. The first casks were laid down to mature in November 2018. John Crabbie & Co. also have a second distillery, named Bonnington, and this is based in Graham Street, Leith - one of the brand's spiritual homes. It will be producing single malt, as well as Crabbie's gin.

The John Crabbie & Co. 1992 Single Cask will be available via selected online and specialist whisky retailers in the UK and will cost £350/ $475 US per bottle. 

Our tasting notes

The colour is pale gold and the nose is surprisingly light and vibrant for something that is 28 years of age. Highly fragrant aromas leap out of the glass - think of vanilla, honey, white chocolate and barley sugars with floral notes of honeysuckle and jasmine in the background. Hints of lemon zest, coconut and cinnamon also come through. Very classy and enticing.

On the palate this whisky maintains that unlifting vibrancy from the nose. First comes the barley sugar sweetness and this is backed up by hints of white chocolate, heather honey and a pinch of cocoa powder. Then comes a distinct fruitiness, although this is split in to two styles - there are stewed green fruits present, especially apple and pear, and these are joined and complimented by very ripe tropical fruits further in the background (think of juicy pineapple and peach especially). 

Underneath are hints of candied lemon and lime with some bittersweet cereal notes adding structure. All of these characteristics are wrapped around notes of vanilla and creamed coconut to create a complex flavour profile with incredible depth. This is especially pleasing given the light, vibrant nature of the single malt. A late pinch of cinnamon spice and white pepper round things off.

The finish is delicious and mouth watering with the lemon note accentuating this in particular. The green and tropical fruity elements fade slowly, then the chocolate and barley sugars, then finally the honey and pinches of spice. This leaves the bittersweet cereals to linger well.

What's the verdict?

This latest single cask release from John Crabbie & Co. is exquisite. The whisky has incredible life and freshness for something of its age and demonstrates just how good old ex-bourbon cask whiskies can be. The vibrancy and refreshing nature is uplifting but packed with complex aroma and flavour profiles. 

Whoever picked this single cask has done a fine job - the previous 1994 single cask from Tobermory was good, but this 1992 Speyside single cask is even better. A fabulous whisky and early contender to be in our Top 10 list for 2021.

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