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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Birthday Booze: Craigellachie 20 year old 1999 SMWS 44.125

The bouncer didn't check my ID on the 24th of August 1999 which was a brief letdown, even though I'd been buying beer for more than a year before that twenty-first birthday. I looked like I was in my forties a long time before I was in my forties.

My birthday bottle, reviewed yesterday, was distilled on that very date in 1999, and today's whisky was distilled on on that very date in 1999. Perspective! Yesterday's whisky was an official single sherry cask of Craigellachie, today's is a single sherry cask of Craigellachie from the Saucy Man's Witticism Society.

I was informed these two casks produced very different results. Lemme see...

Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Independent Bottler: SMWS
Age: at least 20 years old
Distillation date: 24 August 1999
Maturation: Refill Ex-Oloroso Sherry Butt
Cask #: 44.125
Cutesy name: El paraiso oloroso
Outturn: 445
Alcohol by Volume: 57.4%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a bottle split)

The nose is hotter than the 19yo's, though plenty of fruit is present: apple skins, applesauce, a hint of mango, chocolate cherry cordials. Roses in a burlap sack. Honey and a lot of charred oak. There's bitter chocolate and Angostura bitters on the palate, in fact it's very bitter thanks to some aggressive bitter oak. Beneath the oak are prunes, grape jam and soda bread. It ditches a small portion of the bitterness for some sweetness after some time. The finish matches the palate, then adds hints of smoke and oranges.

Gotta say, I'm not crazy about the palate. Time to add some water.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose has changed a bit. Dried herbs, grass, honey and roses. Yet dunnage and newly split oak uneasily occupy the same space. Thankfully the palate straightens things out. It's full of fruit, think limes, pears and dragonfruit (maybe). A little bit of salt, a lot less bitterness and a hint of vanilla. It finishes with herbs salt and tart limes.

Judging by the whiskybase scores, I'm in the minority thinking this is clunky but often good whisky. The neat palate is much too oaky, something that is well fixed by some dilution because at 46%abv the whisky shows balance and fruit. Meanwhile the nose goes the opposite direction. The oak goes big at 46%, but the fruits rule at full strength. Better to smell it neatly, then drink it diluted. It's enjoyable, but I prefer my bottle of Craigellachie.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - £105-£135 in Europe, $200 in the US, when it first came out. Higher in the secondary market
Rating - 84