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Friday, October 30, 2015

Single Malt Report: Craigellachie 18 year old 1995 Hepburn's Choice for K&L Wine Merchants

In 2014, Bacardi started releasing a range of single malts from all of its distilleries.  It was a very cool idea and something that I looked forward to.  But I haven't purchased any of these bottles because many of their prices are on the higher side of things.  Also, I don't buy full bottles blindly and I don't know many folks who have bought any of these whiskies, so I haven't been able to mooch.  But there's one exception, Craigellachie 13yo.

A few months ago, a friend had me blind taste a few things.  The last thing I tried was odd.  The first thing I said was, "It's scotch......right?"  It's was that weird.  It almost seemed like an American craft single malt, but one that was very low on oak.  My friend (who has much more whisky experience than I do) had me declare on the spot how I'd grade it.  I said borderline C+/B-, though its weirdness made me lean closer to B-.  He confirmed it was scotch and that it was Craigellachie 13.  And that he didn't understand why certain reviewers were raving about it.  I anticipate that if he ever publicly reviews it, it'll be graded less than a C+.  I won't review it in full until I do a larger, more official tasting.  But in the meantime, I'll lean much closer to the grades & notes from whiskyfun and whiskynotes than those of thewhiskeyjug and drinkhacker.

Anyway, this review has nothing to do with that whisky.  It is instead about a VERY different Craigellachie.  It's a single sherry cask, bottled by Hunter Laing under their Hepburn's Choice label for K&L Wine Merchants in the US.  It was amongst K&L's 2015 single cask exclusives and there are still some of these bottles on the shelves.  I've been pretty happy about K&L's 2015 picks, let's see if this one continues the positive trend.

Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Retailer: K&L only
Age: 18 years (1995 - 2014)
Region: Speyside
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Bottles: 580
Alcohol by Volume: 54.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
Thanks to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!

Its color is brown gold.  Well, if I didn't know what sort of cask it came from beforehand, the nose told me right away.  Prunes, dried cherries, dark chocolate, Nutella, and sulphur.  There's a small farmy note reminiscent of Tobermory.  Could that be peat moss in there too?  More chocolate with time, like a hot fudge spill on a forest floor.  It's not a pretty or polished nose, but I like it.  A nice moderately fruity cask (probably more the oak than the sherry) show up on the palate.  Grapes/raisins, dried blueberries, and prunes.  But not too sweet.  The sulphur's lighter here.  Milky chocolate and toffee.  Some heat and a malty rumble underneath.  Dark chocolate and cherry pie filling on the finish.  Black raisins and slight bitterness.  No sulphur here.  The chocolate gets milkier with time.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Wham! Cannon powder on the nose.  Chocolate cherry cordials.  Milky milk chocolate.  Black Mission figs (what a f---ing snob).  A little of that possible peaty thing and some orange oil.  The palate is much milder.  A little cleaner and more Glendronach-y.  Fruity but not sweet.  Small notes of mint, milk chocolate, raisins, and soil.  The raisins and chocolate continue into the finish.  Some pepper.  Maybe a little bit of that farm note.

How about this for cuteness: you can just hop on over to My Annoying Opinions's's's review and witness almost the same exact whisky experience.  And, in an unexpected twist, I also agree with thewhiskyjug's review.  Plus, Sku and I agree about this one, and the Hepburn's Bowmore too.  With all of this positivity, bottles still remain in stock as of today.  Why?

Well, this isn't for fans of the Macallan 18yo style of sherried malt.  It's a rougher or "dirty" (as per MAO's note) sherried style.  Likely the kind of thing that pisses off Jim Murray something terrible.  I did some snooping and discovered that Craigellachie does indeed use lightly peated malt, so that mossy note wasn't just my imagination.  In any case, if your palate likes a little bit of an ass-kicking -- as opposed to a foot rub -- from a sherried single malt then this may be your flavor.

Availability - K&L Wine Merchants only
Pricing - $100
Rating - 88


  1. I keep waiting to see if they'll drop the price on this one. Looks like there's plenty of stock left.

    1. Ditto. As you mentioned in a comment on another post, it's often a mystery why some of these single casks (from lesser-name distilleries) sold out faster than others. In this case, it might be a similar issue that their Signatory Bowmore had: sherry cask size. That's approximately 2.5 bourbon casks worth.

    2. European bottlers seem to be better about doing cask splits to spread the risk around. Probably more complicated to do in the States.

    3. I can imagine our national and individual states' liquor laws hinder, or even prevent, cask splits. Though I wonder if Signatory can elect to split up a cask themselves, say K&L gets 1/2 of a sherry cask while LMDW gets the other 1/2?