...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Single Malt Report: Craiglodge 8 year old 1998 Distillery Select, cask 139

On an oddly warm evening in mid November of last year, Andy Smith (of LASC, OCSC, and SDSC fame) and I were having an earnest discourse about fatherhood as we picked through the leftovers from the recent Peatin' Meetin'. Not being emptied during the Meetin' was usually not a good sign for a whisky bottle. Among these unfinished whiskies was a Craiglodge. Upon this discovery I asked Andy if I could take a sample home for deep study.  He said, "Take the bottle, please."  And that's how I wound up with this:
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Loch Lomond's lack of candor over their different brands can result in confusion. For instance, though Craiglodge is a peated Loch Lomond, it's not the same as Croftengea which is also a peated Loch Lomond.  And neither of these should be confused with Loch Lomond Peated, which is a different peated Loch Lomond. A little bit of openness from the distillery would be nice, because it isn't as if one of us could recreate this stuff in our garage. Nor would most of us want to.

There don't appear to be very many Craiglodge bottlings out there. Whiskybase shows a grand total of four, which doesn't include this one. The cask that has received the most digital ink is #223, which the Malt Maniacs HATED. Johannes gave it a 32, Luc Timmermans graded it a 15, and Serge was the most generous out of the six reviewers, calling it a 68. This level of public shade makes me feel all tingly inside. Bring on cask 139!

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Brand: Craiglodge
Range: Distillery Select
Type: Single Malt
Region: Western Highlands
Maturation: Spanish oak hogshead
Age: 8 years old (March 26, 1998 - June 12, 2006)
Cask #: 139
Bottle: 101 of 330
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
Chillfiltered? I think so
Colorant added? I don't think so

The color is bourbon brown. At first whiff the Loch Lomond Garbage™ note rings true in the nose. Luckily(!) it vanishes after a couple minutes. Once that dissipates, large quantities of vanilla and oloroso sherry sit up front. Then fresh mint and chocolate peat. Cinnamon and chlorine. Then, out of nowhere, gunpowder bursts forth, followed by cheap perfume. With more time the vanilla and chocolate take over again. The palate starts with ashy peat, bitter chocolate, and bags of gunpowder. Lots of black pepper. Big sweet grapey action. And an occasional manure note. Bitter ash and moscatel in the finish. Gunpowder on vegetables. Quite sweet.

Dare I add water to this?

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Melting cheap plastic toys and milk chocolate on the nose. Then mesquite and black cherries. The palate is bitterer and more peppery. More veg, more savoriness. A hint of perfume. The sherry and ash retreat to the far back. The finish is very bitter, to the point it's a stamina test. Somewhere underneath that is lead, dirt, and grape sweetness.

Hot damn, it's no wonder they didn't bottle it at full strength, as it would have resulted in fatalities. It's not just ugly, it's the absolute zero of balance and comfort.

But, here's the thing. I like it. The cask imparted a considerable richness. The palate is zesty in its earthiness and bitterness. And its total dissonance makes the whisky so bad it's...it's...It's like one of those impressively frightful dogs that win awards. It resembles nothing lovable, but in that absence one discovers surprisingly warm feelings. And one starts to think, "Man, I want one of those." Gotta respect this little brown snowflake, the antithesis of Balvenie Batch 1401, the ugly dog.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 79 (Mind you, some drinkers may give this whisky a fat F, and they wouldn't be wrong either.)