Here’s my most recent article from the Northern Scot…..
Cragganmore is a distillery close to my heart, having spent many a day sampling or working there in my previous job. While sitting an interview in the mid 90’s I was asked what my ambition was. I replied, “I want to be the manager of Cragganmore”. I got the job but never became the boss there, I did however go on to undertake many operational and support roles within the company.
I aspired to be the manager of Craggamore after falling in love with the place during a period of night shifts taking new make spirit samples in about 1993. Amazingly the operator who ably assisted me in that sampling exercise way back then was on shift the day I visited Cragganmore. The whisky industry on Speyside is still one of the few industries where people work for extended periods at the same place. Davie reminded me that during my week there 22 years ago he had to wake me up one night with an air-horn; well, I didn’t remember that!
Cragganmore is off the beaten track but well worth a visit. Nestling down by the Spey and off the A95 the visitor centre is small but welcoming, and worth a visit. Why not have a wander along the Speyside Way while you are there?
The visit is worth it just to see the spirit stills. They have flat tops just above the exit to the lye pipe, something I have not seen anywhere else. This still design helps in forming the new make spirit character of the distillery, so it begs the question; was it designed this way? Some would say yes, while others may say that it was too tall for the still house so had to have the top cut off. Whatever the answer is the still shape, and the use of traditional worm tubs for condensation, is fundamental in the aroma and flavour of the spirit, making it multifaceted and desirable. The reduced copper contact in the system results in a complex new make sprit that matures out to give the Cragganmore character so sought after.
The whiskies tasted were varied and interesting. The Friends of the Classic Malts Bottling, available only at the site, was strong in vanilla but with wood notes and very sweet. Even sweeter was the 1991 Distillers Edition, a whisky finished off in port pipes to soften the product. This one actually really surprised me with a quick “hit” of peat smoke that quickly faded into sugary sweetness. The “entry level” Cragganmore is the 12 year old single malt. Mainly matured in bourbon casks (so one I’m sure I was going to like), it is exceptionally smooth yet complex, with a wide range of aromas and flavours. From toffee to chocolate, zesty orange to earth and wood, this is a whisky of endless variety; it would give you something new every time you tasted it.
The best however was the 25 year old. It was simply stunning, but at £300 a bottle it should be! The nose of vanilla and citrus gave way to similar flavours but also chocolate, caramel and toffee. It was wonderfully sweet with a long and satisfying finish. Rich and smooth is how I would describe this, and that’s just what I wish I were so that I could buy a bottle for myself.
Recommendation of the Month
Although simply divine, the 25 year old is well out of mine, and most people’s price range. So my recommendation this month is the wonderfully complex 12 year old single malt. At £36 from the visitor centre this is a wonderful Speyside dram.