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Monday, September 17, 2018

Craigellachie Week begins with Craigellachie 13 year old

I could say I've always liked Craigellachie, but I've really only tried four Craigellachie single malts. Only one of those four were disappointing, but I think that was more of a Dimensions problem than a Craigellachie problem. The other three Craigs didn't behave like clean crowd-pleasing Speysiders. Yes there was fruit, and they were all well textured, but they each had something dingy underneath while herbs and wax and cereal notes floated above.

It's time for me to further explore this distillery. This week I'm going to review five Craigellachies. You'll notice there are no NASes or single-digit whiskies here. Each have some age on them. And most are from sherry casks.

First up is the official 13 year old, rolled out to the market by Bacardi in 2014. Like its mates in the Craig range, it has a proper 46%abv + no chill-filtration + no colorant(?) presentation. And they all come from American oak casks, exclusively. The 13 is just refill casks, so someone's got some pride over there at Bacardi.

Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Age: minimum 13 years
Maturation: refill American oak
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No (or maybe?)
(Sample gifted by St. Brett of Riverside. Thanks, Brett!)

The nose starts off with peaches, apricots, saltwater and chocolate malt. There's an exotic citrus note — can't put my finger on the fruit — but it's a stinger. A whiff of hot tar. It gets maltier with time, picking up a slight raspberry candy note. The palate is warm, malty and grassy. There's a great trio of mellow herbal bitterness + light sweetness + lemons that lasts throughout. Another hint of something tarry and phenolic. The long finish ditches the sweetness altogether. It's malty, salty, herbal, peppery with gentle bitterness and citrus.

This whisky has triggered some curious reactions. Serge tried it twice, had issues with it twice, finding it too raw. Ruben of Whiskynotes was similarly unimpressed. Meanwhile, Josh of The Whisky Jug thought it was great. After reading Josh's take on it, Andy (of LAWS and LASC fame) had me taste Craigellachie 13 blindly. We both were less enthusiastic about it than Josh. Now I try it four years later, and I like it. And per Andy's LAWS notes, it's grown on him as well.

I'll agree with Serge, this whisky is nearly oakless, which means the spirit runs free. But I dig it. It's much less raw than all the recent 5-8 year old single cask indies I've tried. And it's certainly more mature and complex than the Wolfburn bottlings that have received better reviews (but not from me).

Ignoring everyone's opinions, for a moment, I think we may all confirm that this is not an easygoing whisky. And if you're looking for oak, you'd be better off going with bourbon. Or one of many NAS single malts.

Availability - Many specialty liquor retailers worldwide
Pricing - $40-$70 (USA)
Rating - 86

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