Whilst Lyndsey Gray has been managing the Quaich Bar for the past four years, ‘managing’ is rather underselling her role at the Craigellachie Hotel. Working with the likes of Charles MacLean and Dave Broom, Lyndsey has helped curate the rather cosmic collection, which extends across three of the four walls of the well fitted, but very comfortable wood-heavy bar. When I caught up with her last week she was still in recovery mode following the Spirit of Speyside Festival – an event which helps drive whisky tourism, but one that is the bane of anyone trying to maintain an up to date accurate whisky list.
Lyndsey’s whisky knowledge is extensive, and despite her relative youth, she’s already got many years of experience under her belt – working at both Glenfiddich and Strathisla in turn – before joining the Craigellachie Hotel’s team right at the start of an extensive renovation of both the hotel, and a remodelling of the world-famous Quaich.
Unsurprisingly, the Craigellachie Hotel is a mere stone’s throw away from the distillery of the same time – so as far as exclusive bottlings go, it’s a bit of a no brainer. The Quiach has had several unique Craigellachie bottlings over the years – some directly from the distillery itself, others via independent bottlers such as Scott’s. The current exclusive has been on the bar since 2015 and is a 21 year old OB bottled at a cask strength of 57.2%.
Nose: An intriguing combination of warm sweetness, damp earthiness and sharp aged aromas. Certainly complex. Toffee apples, poached pears, kiwi and rhubarb are joined by deep tobacco box and steely brass polish. Mushrooms, damp soils and soaked tree stumps sit alongside fresher notes – vanilla pods, freshly sawn oak and desiccated coconut. In the backgrounds, chocolate nibs, custard and caramel. The addition of water brings out honey, lemon juice and minerality – tinderbox.
Taste: A bold, rich and slightly waxy delivery at high strength –apples and pears first, but then swiftly moving towards citrus with grapefruits and lemon peels. Toffee, chocolate, prickly black pepper and charred oak all provide depth and character and are supported by a strong nutty vein – almonds in particular. Vanilla and custard translate from the nose, making everything seem rather like a tart or crumble after an indulgent Sunday dinner. A few drops of water emphasises the orchard fruits even further, adding juiciness and ripeness, as well as allowing the cask influence further limelight – but alongside this comes some wood tannins and slight bitterness.
Finish: Quite long and quite malty, with juicy, tangy fruits, and a lovely fading pepper bitterness.
The 21 year old Craigellachie Hotel Exclusive bottling has pronounced orchard flavour and an exceptionally balanced finish. But, its real selling point is its impactful character and particularly weighty mouthfeel. This is quality active maturation in good wood. You could add water, indeed, it’s always good to experiment, but for me, this is ready to go and quite delicious straight out of the bottle.
Unsurprisingly, you’re mainly going to be finding this at the Craigellachie Hotel’s Quaich Bar where it’ll set you back £20 for a dram – though Lyndsey might still have some extra bottles stashed away that she’d be prepared to sell you whole - £300 if you want one of those – far from a daily drinker. Either way - worth checking out next time you’re in the area.