Thursday, April 14, 2022

Review / Craigellachie 13 years old Armagnac Cask Finish

The Speyside distillery of Craigellachie has revealed a new range of single malts and the first whisky in that range. This Craigellachie 13 years old Armagnac Cask Finish bottling kicks off the Craigellachie Cask Collection. The series is designed to show off the distillery's heavy style of single malt, which is created through the use of traditional worm tub condensers. The concept will see whisky finished in barrels from other spirit producing regions that use similar traditional methods. Initial maturation was in re-fill and re-charred American oak ex-bourbon barrels. The whisky was then transferred to French oak Bas-Armagnac brandy casks sourced from a distillery in the Gascony region of France.

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 Craigellachie, which translates as 'rocky hill' from Gaelic. The distillery sits on that rocky hill and overlooks the village. The distillery is large and has an annual production capacity of around five million litres. Most of the whisky produced is used in the Dewar's range of blends, although occasional releases do turn up through independent bottlers.

The Craigellachie 13 years old Armagnac Cask Finish is bottled at 46% ABV and will be available France, Germany and the UK, and released later in 2022 to Taiwan and the USA. A bottle will cost £53/ €50/ $65 US.

Our tasting notes

The colour is bright gold with an orangey tint. The nose is expressive, fruity and sweet with initial aromas of vanilla, crisp green pear and white grapes. Underneath are further aromas of juicy dried fruits (especially sultana and apricot), white chocolate and honey. Something floral lingers in the background along with some woody spice.

On the palate this whisky has a rich mouthfeel and kicks off with plenty of juicy fruits and wood spice - imagine a combination of dried apricot and pear, sultanas and sweet vanilla cream with cinnamon, ginger powder and toasted oak. The mix between the sweetness and drying woodiness is intriguing. 

Something floral and confected then comes through. This is reminiscent of citrus blossom and candied limes. An evolving cereal-like biscuity note begins to show itself and adds further depth and complexity. The juicy fruits and sweetnessstart to fade a little and the whisky becomes drier and warmer as it progresses towards the finish.

The finish is long and is all about the wood and baking spices. Both add a another dimension to the whisky and a growing warmth. This is refreshing and leaves you wanting another sip. The oak has a toasted feel that heightens the woodiness and the baking spices include pinches of cinnamon, all-spice and ginger.

What's the verdict?

Craigellachie have set the bar high for their new Cask Collection series with this first release. It is delicious and a bit of a stunner. The distillery's robust character compliments the notes from the American oak and ex-Armagnac barrels. The result is a multi layered whisky that takes you through a true tasting experience - sweet, fruity, biscuity, spicy and woody. The combination of elements is great and it seems very well priced also. We cannot wait to see what else appears in the series now.

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