Craigellachie 18yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, Bourbon & Sherry Hogshead, 432 bottles)

Hey, let’s try another Craigellachie. I’ve just reviewed the new official 13yo, and got a taste of what the official Craigellachie tastes like. That one seems to me to be only from Bourbon casks, and this Cadenhead expression is not only from a Bourbon, but also from Sherry Hogsheads. Craigellachie is often a very nice distillate, meaty and funky, so I have high hopes for this, so without further ado…

Craigellachie 18yo 1994/2013 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, Bourbon & Sherry Hogshead, 432 bottles)Color: Copper gold

Nose: Velvety, vegetal and occasionally soapy. Strong. Gin botanicals. Sweet smelling (funky and sweet lavas) and extremely fresh at first. Menthol. Lots of oak. Next a lot of development. The menthol and other “fresh” components dissipate and a funky and oaky sweatiness takes over. Sweet dusty licorice and slightly rotting oak and the sharper wood odor of pencil shavings. Yes you’ve guessed it, a very interesting Craigellachie! Buttery vanilla. and sweetish wet fern leaves. Lots happening here. Not a nose for the faint hearted. Complex stuff.

Taste: Sweet at first but very quickly turning into something dry. Nice oak again with pencil shavings and tiny hints of cannabis in vanilla ice-cream. Very aromatic. Warm coffee (with milk), wood and dark, but not too dark, chocolate. Well balanced and very interesting aroma’s thrown together. Funky beerlike finish. Animalesk. Mocha, toffee and salty caramel are there too. I feel this Whisky changes a lot along the way.

Probably a Whisky for connoisseurs. I like it a lot, but I don’t think newbies will be positive since accessibility is not the priority for this Whisky. The complexity and amount of aroma’s are just shy of being overwhelming.

Points: 87

Craigellachie 13yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Wait…wait…wait some more. Now? No, not yet, wait a little longer. Now? No there is still no wining about all those NAS* bottlings. OK, I’ll wait… Well surely now? Yes, go, go, go! NOW!

This is how I imagine it went down at Bacardi HQ. In 1998 Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Royal Brackla were sold by UDV (now Diageo) to Bacardi (Martini). CraigellachieOnly once before was there an official Craigellachie released by Bacardi, namely the 14yo (and a special 21yo for the Craigellachie Hotel). Finally after a lull of 16 years, and when the whole world only talks about the plethora of NAS Whiskies, Bacardi puts out official releases of all of their distilleries, including Macduff (with Deveron as the brand, so no more Glen Deveron). Today we’ll have a look at the Craigellachie 13yo, one of a series of five. The first stint saw the release of this 13yo together with a 17yo and a 23yo. Not much later we’ll see a 19yo for travel retail and a majestic 31yo.

Craigellachie 13yoColor: Light gold.

Nose: Creamy with sawdust and bourbon vanilla. Spicy and fresh-baked bread. Wine gum fruitiness with a touch of sulphur. Dusty flower and mushy apple. The sulphur part (mind you it just a touch), first the spicy part of the oak quite well. Tiny hint of honey, soap and butter. This official 13yo is most definitely less funky than most of the Independent expressions I’ve nosed thus far. Probably the funkiness comes from Sherry wood.

Taste: Sweet and very creamy with again a nice woody spiciness that catches up. Fruity and a hint of burned bread, Buttered toast. Still the whole is not all to heavy and the finish isn’t miles long. The sulphur and the wine gums pop up in the finish and takes a bit away from the balance. Very drinkable and accessible. Nice soft Whisky from Bourbon or Tennessee Whisky casks.

If you ask me, Bacardi made a lot of effort to take the world by surprise by not only issuing five whiskies with an age statement, but also with its design, We’ll have a look at some of the others later, but these five look absolutely stunning. Well done. The Whisky itself was matured in Refill American Oak Casks and that shows. Same score as the Laphroaig Select. Both sweet and different from each other, and will fit together nicely. (Take the Craigellachie first).

Points: 83

*NAS (No Age Statement)

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)

Craigellachie was founded in 1891 and designed by Charles Doig. The first spirit is distilled not earlier than in 1898. Smooth sailing from there, with some minor changes in ownership. In 1964 the distillery is hauled over and the stills are doubled taking them from two to four. In 1998 Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Royal Brackla are sold by UDV (now Diageo) to Bacardi (Martini). Its closest neighbour is The Macallan.

More than two years ago I reviewed one of my own bottles a Craigellachie that was distilled in 1982. Today we’ll have another go at Craigellachie and this time one that was distilled 20 odd years later. The Craigellachie at hand is a mere 8 years old, and was matured in a Sherry Butt.

Craigellachie 8yo 2002/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Sherry Butt #90067, 882 bottles)Color: Light gold

Nose: Malty and quite sweet-smelling. Hot sugar solution. Toffee, caramel and most definitely some vanilla (American oak?). Also a hint of mint and some elegant (old) oak. Next to that some fresh air and herbal traits. Dried grass. The wood changes a little into the smell you get when you are sharpening a pencil, but also cask toast. Probably a Refill Butt that once held Fino Sherry. The sweetness that was there in the beginning dissipates a bit to let those woody and drier notes to display themselves some more. After a while a hint of licorice and lemon curd.

Taste: Malty again, and somehow it doesn’t taste ready, not as balanced as the nose is. It is underway yet not finished. Small bitterness and also some paint notes. The maltiness and oak hide the sweetness that is absolutely there. Butter cake and a touch of honey. Given some time the sweetness emerges better but the whole gets more balanced by a creamy note and milk chocolate. The finish is quite long and adds a bitter burnt note that wasn’t there before. It adds to the character and balances the (late) sweetness. Interesting.

I usually wine that a Whisky was reduced too much. This one yielded almost 900 bottles, so this must have been a Whisky that was high in alcohol. It was reduced to 46% ABV, yet it still carries a nice punch and I’m guessing the flavours are better displayed at this strength than it would have been at Cask Strength. Lovely and honest Whisky, easily drinkable and a nice addition to a lot of official bottlings you might own in the same price-range.

Points: 84

Craigellachie 1982/1999 (61.6%, Scott’s Selection)

And here is another whisky from my lectern. This time an old (bottled in 1999) Craigellachie from Scott’s Selection. The people who brought us the fabulous Longmorns from 1971. Therefore I always have a soft spot for these guys. This Craigellachie was opened on our whisky trip to Switzerland. What I will never forget was the foul smell this whisky gave off when the bottle was first opened, (but tasted good). That was unbelievable. Very soon after that I found that the bad smell was quickly gone and getting better with time. The bottle has some 30 cl left now, so let’s see how this will perform now. The initial score was 83 points.

Color: White wine.

Nose: fresh, dirty ánd clean. Dirty in the sense that it has some hints of asphalt, tar, sweat and mud from a moat. I hesitate to say it, but it has hints of a good fart. But after all those niceties it shows to be a very clean bourbon cask smell. Lemons and some hay with a nice body to it, and no, it’s not a Lowlander. Still all of this fits together well, so you might want to call this ‘balanced’. I like it (now). To me it does not smell too much alcoholic considering the high ABV.

Taste: Sweet and something like Kirsch with some mocha. Spicy but not woody. Apples. Stays sweet, but fortunately not that sickening heavy sugary sweetness you sometimes encounter, no, this sweetness is just perfect. Maybe not the most complex whisky around but still very enjoyable. Just slightly unbalanced in the finish. Fortunately it has some great staying power.

A great one to drink when playing cards, even with this ABV. Don’t bring too much money to the table though, because some shots of this will lose you your money. At least you enjoyed a nice whisky in the process. The ‘stink’ that was there when opening the bottle is now completely gone, or maybe turned in something more fitting to the taste. So here’s another lesson for us all. A lot of whiskies do need time ánd air. A lot of them just benefit from some oxidation. So be brave and leave the cork off for a while…

Points: 85