Three-decades of maturation for this 1987 Cragganmore. The outturn lists this as a 1st fill ex-Pedro Ximenez hogshead, but I’m fairly certain that there’s been some (considerable) period of ex-bourbon maturation prior to this. Old & Dignified profile.
Nose: Instant woodiness – part antique furniture store, part lumber mill. As you’d expect from a whisky of this age, this is joined by plenty of polish and lacquer. The PX-led notes are up next – dusty leather bound books, chocolate truffles, espresso and spent coffee grounds. Running throughout orchard fruits (apples and pears) livened by plenty of orange influence – peels, marmalades, juice and liqueur. Water adds a sense of additional dusty and mustiness, but at the same time, lessens the overt woodiness down to much a more sensible level, whilst adding in both sugared citrus and stem ginger.
Taste: A complete and utter woodfest – old mahogany bookcases, parquet flooring and teak oil – with fresher, sappier oak and a bucket load of oil paint and thinners. I adore the flavours of old oily wood more than most folks, but this is even too much for my palate. Behind the wall of wood are sherry-influenced flavours – chocolate gateaux, chopped walnuts and a good scattering of cinnamon. In the mid palate, orange segments and juice makes way for a spicy bitterness and the zing of homemade lemonade. The addition of water brings this old-timer back into balance – softer, concentrated and much more cohesive.
Finish: Medium to long with chocolate, coffee beans, nuts and a dry pepper which builds into tannicness steady.
This doesn’t just ask for water, it sits sobbing and begging in the corner for it. Undiluted, this feels entirely over matured, taking on way too much wood influence – with the Society attempting to rescue it with a heavy sugar-filled PX finish. Diluted, I’m a lot happier, with balance restored to the Force. Either way, if you’re adverse to old oak, you’d best avoid this one – it’s woodier than a woody thing. Scoring is tough here as the whisky is so transformed when reduced – I’ve taken a middle-ground – your mileage might vary considerably.