Despite being a part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range and being generally available, I haven’t had a lot of experience with Cragganmore. However, I do have a soft spot for distilleries experimenting with their product.
In 2006 there was a drought and subsequent water shortage on the isle of Sky. Because they didn’t know how long this was going to take, they decided to produce a back-up in case Talisker had to temporarily seize production.
They started to produce peated spirit at Cragganmore for about 3-4 months, peated to Talisker-like levels. For Diageo’s 2019 Special Releases, they brought out this peated version of Cragganmore, aged 12 years in refill American Oak and bottled at a cask strength of 58,4%
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Light to medium peat combined with orchard fruits. I’m getting red apples and grapes, reine claude plums as well. There’s a minty note to be found too. With some time, I’m getting added hints of marzipan, wax and honey.
Palate: Quite a strong arrival with a nice and oily texture coating the mouth. Peat and spices are up first, think black pepper and cloves. A more aggressive arrival than I would have thought. It then gets smoothed by white grapes and grapefruit, along with an earthy note. You could really draw comparisons with Ardmore.
Finish: A long finish with white fruit, oak tannins and lingering smoke.
The juxtaposition of the classic fruity speysider notes and the almost Talisker-esque peat works very well here and is nicely balanced. Easy to sip but the complexity is there if you want to dig a little deeper.
At the start of my whisky journey, I wasn’t too fond of sherry bombs. With Glenfarclas maturing all their spirit in ex-sherry casks, I didn’t pay too much attention to them. Time to rectify this. This is a 9 year old bottled for the Spanish market.
Nose: Oranges and cherries at first. Some praliné comes through and with some patience, a quite malty note along with marzipan. Finally, there’s milk chocolate and hazelnut. It reminded me heavily of Zott Monte pudding, nice!
Palate: The chocolate and hazelnut mixture continues from the nose. There’s some added notes from cherries along with blueberry and juniper notes.
Finish: Quite a short finish with fudge, oak and grapefruit.
Not too bad for such a young OB. The casks influence is clear but doesn’t dominate the spirit. Nosing this is more fun than drinking it though (I love Monte).
The Scallywag has been the Speyside representative in Douglas Laing’s “Remarkable Regional Malts” series. While I haven’t yet had a chance to taste the core version, I did get myself a bottle of the Chocolate Edition. It’s made up of both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, with a higher percentage of the former.
It was bottled for World Chocolate Day 2019 and is limited to 500 bottles. It’s vintage 2009, so about 10 years old.
Nose: Quite a bit going on in the nose here. Orange zest and cherry liqueur. Sultana’s. I’m also getting a fruit jam sweetness, makes me think there could be some PX in here. Dark chocolate (of course) and some light bourbony notes like honey keep it from being a bit dull and dusty.
Palate: The chocolate takes the main stage here, with both milk and dark chocolate coating the palate. Also some aniseeds and coffee beans.
Finish: Quite a long finish with the chocolate sticking to the taste buds, a hint of sweetness is there as well.
It does what it says on the bottle, and I’m happy for it. Excellent blend for it’s price!
On May 22, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society held a tasting at Campbeltown’s Ardshiel Hotel to taste some of their bottlings for the Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown festivals.
Luckily for me, they also streamed the tasting live, and members of the SMWS were able to buy samples of each of the five whiskies to be tasted.
The livestream was in a seperate room from the in person tasting, which meant we were able to create our own atmosphere in the chatroom. Unfortunately, there were some technical hick-ups, but the presentation was quite engaging. Either way, what counts most is the quality of the drams.
Glen Grant 2007, SMWS 9.161 “Cream Tea at the Patisserie” | 60.9% ABV | Bottled 2019
We started things off with a young Glen Grant aged for 11 years in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel. It’s labeled under the SMWS flavour profile “Sweet, Fruity & Mellow”.
Color: Pale gold.
Nose: The citrus is immediately apparent. Tons of lemon hits your nose. Digging in a little bit, it’s like being in a pastry shop (I guess their naming is on point). Lemon pie and cookie-dough, it needs a while to open up though. There’s a sweet sugar note too, think icing sugar. Orange marmelade. With water, the doughy notes come through a bit pore prominently, but the lemons are still at the forefront.
Palate: Quite a strong arrival. Sugary at first, but fades into tart lemons. Some orange zest and little Petit Beurre cookies. After some time, I get the appearance of a little whipped cream.
Finish: Short to medium lenght. Lemon, of course. A hint of salt and yeast. Some peppers, ginger and cinnamon show themselves here too.
This one really only opens up after adding some water and giving it some time. It’s a nice opener for the night, but a bit too heavy on the lemon for me.
On to the second Speysider of the night. This 21 year old Glenrothes has spent 19 years of it’s life in an ex-oloroso butt and was then finished for 2 years in a 2nd fill Pedro Ximénez butt. According to the SMWS, the flavour profile of this should be “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits”.
Color: Amber with a nice orange hue.
Nose: Oh this is inviting. Walnuts, prunes, dried figs, dried dates. Some sweet raisins and a very rum-like note. I like this nose, a lot. With water: some strawberries come into the mix.
Palate: Surprisingly soft and smooth arrival. This doesn’t mean the flavour isn’t there though. Lots of dark red fruits. Raisins, plums and prunes. Some tannins from the cask, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. With water, the tannins come out a bit more. A very very sweet one, this Glenrothes, as I would expect from a PX-cask. But still nicely balanced.
Finish: The sweetness lingers and a slight herbal and menthol note appears. A bit of a sticky mouthfeel, makes you want to go for another sip. Luckily, the finish is quite long.
I’m not the biggest fan of whisky that is very heavily influenced by sherry, but this is an excellent example of good cask management.
Another “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits” flavour profile, but I’m quite sure this will be quite different to the Glenrothes. It has spent 16 years in an American oak oloroso butt and another 3 years in a Spanish oak oloroso butt.
Color: Mahogany, the color is surprising yet inviting.
Nose: Well, it’s Laphroaig so the presence of peat shouldn’t be stated. However, it’s quite subdued. Lot’s and lot’s of liquorice. Figs and prunes too, as well as a minty note. With water: Old leather, a dusty leather armchair in an antique store. Ever so slight hint of petrol too.
Palate: The peat gives a definite kick here, more than the nose lead me to assume. Quite a briny, iodine note too. Adding water, the leather note comes through much more. Fresh figs and orange zest. Poached pears and pecans.
Finish: A long finish with notes of peatsmoke, ash, tobacco leaves, leather and an ever so slight hint of blueberry.
This is great stuff. Very nice marriage between the spirit and the cask. The age is noticeable, but it’s still more than lively enough.
Time for another Islay bottling, but this time without the peat. A 13 year old Bunnahabhain from a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, bottled at a very healthy 61.8% ABV. The SMWS flavour profile here is “Oily & Coastal”.
Color: Light gold
Nose: Immediate banana, luckily I don’t have any minions in the house. Hints of tequila too. Some salt, but not the brine I’m used to in Bunnahabhain. Salted popcorn, that’s more like it. With water, some oysters and ever so slight elderflower notes. Banana-vanilla pudding, those yellow Petit Gervais yoghurts if you’ve ever had those.
Palate: Sweet and salty. Fruit de mer, crabcakes. White fruit too, mostly peach. Some brine here, and seaweed. A tonic note too. With water: more honey and vanilla notes. The seasalt comes through more clearly. Oh, and dried pineapple!
Finish: On the shorter side, although we’ve been spoiled with the previous two. Peaches, salt and aha, we have found the olives!
If you’d give this to me blind, I wouldn’t guess it’s an Islay malt. Still quite nice nonetheless.
Our final dram of the evening is a Campbeltown whisky. Our hosts tell us it’s not Springbank nor Glengyle. Of course, we could just Google the distillery number, right? It spent 10 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel. This should be lightly peated.
Color: Light gold.
Nose: Exotic fruits, lead by pineapples and lychee. A slight green vegetable note, peas perhaps? In the back there’s some freshly baked croissants and white chocolate.
Palate: I love it when a whisky can deliver what it promises on the nose. Pineapples aplenty, some papaya and lychee too. There’s a grassy and earthiness to this, which I get quite often with this not Springbank nor Glengyle distillery. Also, the peat is a bit louder than on the nose here, adding a nice counternote to the sweet fruits.
Finish: A minty eucalyptus note, toothpaste. Fresh green herbs and peaches to make sure the sweetness sustains. Nice and long finish.
I really like this one. Then again, I tend to like Glen Scotia so it isn’t a huge surprise.
Sometimes we lose track of the most available whiskies, thinking they are not for the ‘connoisseur’. Thinking they are not interesting enough. I feel like it’s important to keep trying those whiskies. To know what goes on, because the whiskies that are sold most are ultimately the most important, but also to calibrate our palates, and our scores.
Nose: It’s very clear the goal of this whisky is to be accessible, and in that is does succeed. Notes of honey, vanilla and some nuts. Quite inviting, yet simple
Palate: Continues pretty much on the same élan as the nose. Vanilla and honey are the dominant notes. Some slight pear shows up and a walnut bitterness.
Finish: Vanilla yet again. The oak comes through a bit more here. Medium in length.
This is a very easy dram for sure, but we shouldn’t punish simplicity.