...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Birthday Bottle: Craigellachie 19 year old 1999 Exceptional Cask 129

For my forty-second birthday, I opened a bottle of a whisky that was distilled on my twenty-first birthday. It was a fortuitous find and one I was willing to overspend for.

Also, I like Craigellachie. It's a weird spirit, thanks to the distillery's worm tubs which theoretically give the newmake a sulfurous edge. To me there's always something slightly off-kilter going on with full strength Craigellachies, earthy-yet-not and fruity-yet-not, and those aspects blossom in a good sherry cask. I hope this is a proper example.

Craigellachie 19 year old 1999 Exceptional Cask #129, sherry butt, 55.2%abv
(second and third pours from the top)

No raisins nor prunes on the nose, instead there's mint, anise and chocolate fudge. Almond extract, grilled pineapple and funky honey. Hints of charred beef and toasted oak linger beneath. The palate begins with lots of orange notes (peels and candies) which gradually drift towards bright lemon notes. Just a little bit of sweetness and a hint of soil. Wood smoke, dried thyme and plenty of good bitterness. It finishes with a balance of moderate bitterness, citrus and sweetness. It picks up some white fruits and wood smoke with time.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose begins with yellow curry and bundles of citrons and lemons. Oceany brine and hard toffee drift in the background. The palate is thick and creamy with savory herbs, Thai chiles and smoked turkey. Often whiskies sweeten up upon dilution. Not this one. It finishes with the Thai chiles and savory herbs, but now some tart limes have joined in.

I expected a challenge and that's what this cask delivers. Once diluted, it is one of the savoriest whiskies I've ever had, but when neat it's fruity, earthy and smoky. Will this freak out sulfurphobes? Possibly, but the wee 'S' is different than the gunpowder or rotten eggs or furry tongue finish that some curious casks deliver. Maybe Benrinnes and Mortlach fans will like it. The whisky is still a bit of a mystery to me. I have the bottle's fourth pour in front of me now and the palate's oranges have snuck into the nose. The mix of bitterness, citrus and earth remains sharp as ever in the mouth. The bottle has an equal chance of becoming either an 84-point or a 90-point whisky. Ah, the novelty of having 750mL at hand, rather than 60mL.

Availability - US only, bottles still available at several specialty retailers
Pricing - $200 and up
Rating - 88