It’s the penultimate day of the 2018 Boutique-y Whisky Advent calendar, and we have one final visit to Speyside to make before the finale. Craigellachie has long been prized by blenders for its inherent character – weighty, fruity distillate resulting from both the use worm tubs, and a particularly long fermentation. As such, whilst it’s presence has been felt in blends such as White Horse since the 19th Century, it was not until 2014 that current owners Dewars/Bacardi really pushed the distillery as a single malt in its own right.
Craighellachie’s inclusion in the ‘Last Great Malts of Scotland’ series has moved it from blending component into the single malt spotlight. A World Whisky Award for the 31 year old expression has only further solidified its reputation – and its desirability, particularly for longer-aged expressions. Just a couple of months ago, the distillery launched one of the most interesting whisky marketing campaigns I’ve seen in a long time – 51 bottles of 51 year old Craigellachie (the oldest produced to date), but every single one of them set aside for worldwide tasting events – at no cost. A commendable decision given the huge growth in whisky commodification over the last decade, and in my view a sure-fire way to continue to raise the profile of this enigmatic distillery.
Boutique-y’s second batch of Craigellachie is a small one – just 397 bottles delivered at 52.5%. They’re available from Master of Malt for £49.95
Nose: Straight out of the bottle, this has some coppery youthfulness, but it lifts quickly with resting to reveal a whisky with a malty core. Sponge fingers and digestive biscuits provide a lift of sugar before home-made lemonade and lemon curd supplement with tart fruitiness. In the background, chalky minerality – not quite coastal, but heading in that direction. Reduction provides a u-turn back towards Speyside – toffee, butterscotch and milk chocolate – but still with that citrus tang – now sweetened with lemon drops.
Taste: Oatiness and malts up front with minerality now in ascendance – limestone cliffs, saltiness and crushed aspirin. Orchard fruits (apples and pears) sit with a pronounced burnt wood note – heavily charred American oak. The back-palate reinforces both wood, with some immediate dryness, as well as the minerality with graphite and coal dust. Water brings us back to Speyside once more with biscuit crumb, toffee, milk chocolate and a return of the lemon – an almost identical effect to dilution on the nose.
Finish: Medium and highly natural – damp earthiness, quartz, slate and shingle.
Boutique-y’s second batch of Craigellachie is rather the curate’s egg – and certainly divergent from what one might consider the Speyside norm. There’s some archetypal flavours here, but when delivered at 52.5% a huge vein of flintiness provides a very different experience – one which I’m in two minds about. On the one hand I adore sharp and rocky coastal-tinged nuances, on the other, in this expression they feel somewhat erroneous when considered with the malty, buttery Craigellachie core. There’s a balance, but it’s a rather challenging and strange one. Nevertheless, this has plenty of fascination – particularly in how reduction (of both the nose and palate) restores more the conventional regional traits one might expect. I’m not 100% sold, but I’m certainly more than interested.
Review calendar provided by Boutique-y Whisky