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Friday, September 21, 2018

Craigellachie 21 year old 1995 Clan Denny (and some history)

Craigellachie was co-founded in 1890 by Peter Mackie, the creator of the White Horse brand. Twenty-five years later Mackie's company took over the distillery entirely. In a series of terribly exciting name changes and mergers, Craigellachie's owners went from Mackie & Company to White Horse Distillers to Distillers Company Limited (DCL) to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD) over a period of six years. In 1998 its owners (then United Distillers) sold the whole Dewar's suite of malt distilleries (Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Royal Brackla and Craigellachie) to Bacardi.

Though Craigellachie was originally created to bolster the production of White Horse and Old Smuggler blended whiskies, it now swims mostly in Dewar's and William Lawson's. Its malted barley is peated at 1-2ppm. Technically that level matches Glenmorangie's and shouldn't be noticeable, but its sulphuric spirit seems to lend many Craigellachies a perceptible phenolic edge.

I'm rounding out the week with the third straight single sherry cask from 1995, and the fourth consecutive Craig from a Laing company. Here's the list:

Tuesday - 14 year old 2000 from Old Malt Cask
Wednesday - 18 year old 1995 Old Malt Cask, cask 10589
Thursday - 20 year old 1995 Old Particular, cask 10962

Here's the whisky:

Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Label: Clan Denny
Age: 21 years (Oct 1995 - May 2017)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask #: DMG11769
Bottles: 197 (cask split?)
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

Its color is very light, without a trace of gold hue, which is curious after two decades in a sherry butt; or maybe not so curious. The nose starts off with Kilkerran-esque soil and crispy leaves. Then chives and plaster. Lots of lemons and pears, with a hint of mango. There's a little bit of gunpowder green tea in the background as well. This all fades out quickly. The palate reads like an unsweetened green juice. Cucumbers, kale, grass, peppercorns and vegetable stock. There are also smaller notes of metal, grains and paper. After about 20 minutes a little bit of simple syrup shows up, as does vanilla. That green note continues into the finish, as does the metal. With time it gets more tannic and a few raisins appear.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or 3/4tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose brightens up with notes of lemons, limes and apples. There's also vanilla and cinnamon that doesn't mesh with the earthy notes. The palate is sweeter, friendlier. Tart berries and mild bitterness keep the sweets from going overboard. The salty broth remains, while the pepper reads slightly sulphuric. Grows more tannic with time. It finishes tannic, metallic, citric, sweet and earthy.

Fifth-fill sherry butt, perhaps? When neat, the whisky is all over the place, not fully formed. It does improve with water, mostly due to the appearance of the fruits. Meanwhile, when the oak does show up, it's all tannins and vanilla. Overall, it's not ugly, weird or unique enough to be fascinating. It's just unbalanced like a premature whisky, and too tannic like an overmatured whisky.

Though this series didn't end on the most positive note, I enjoyed Craigellachie Week a lot more than Glenlossie Week. I'm going to continue window shopping this distillery's stuff in the future.

Though Craigellachie's malt can be quirky, it can't compare to the oddities that lurch forth from next week's distillery...

Availability - Probably sold out
Pricing - ~€90
Rating - 78 (with water)

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