Cragganmore 1988/2002 “Distillers Edition” (40%, OB, Double Matured in Ruby Port Wood, CggD-6553)

As could have been expected by reading the last review here is the Cragganmore Distillers Edition, and just like the 12yo this particular bottle, was also bottled in 2002. Cragganmore is seen by many as a top Whisky. Blenders see it that way, and especially Diageo see it that way too. Although it has been part of the original Classic Malts range from 1988, it never was the most popular of the six. I don’t have to spell them out for you don’t I? Well OK, the original six were: Lagavulin (Islay), Talisker (Skye: Islands), Oban (marketed as West-Highlands), Glenkinchie (Lowlands, which many thought it would be Rosebank, but economics decided otherwise), Dalwhinnie (Highlands) and Cragganmore (Speyside). Still some aficionado’s are very keen on Cragganmore because Cragganmore is said to be a complex malt by using hard water and have stills with flat tops. History also teaches us that Cragganmore used a lot of Sherry casks.

Cragganmore 1988/2002 "Distillers Edition" (40%, OB, Double Matured in Ruby Port Wood, CggD-6553)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Creamy and waxy, this time with a winey note, which makes it instantaneously more interesting than the 12yo. Fresh air with licorice and black and white powder. The yellow fruits from the original 12yo have been replaced by the red (berry) fruits from the Port finish. Tiny hint of Calvados. Red apple skin. Creamy vanilla is still here though. Hints of Sinaspril (a children’s headache medicine I remember from the seventies). Fruity candy powder (synthetic).

Taste: Seems spicier, but still a bit too light. Watered down Ice-cream. Quite sweet. Sugar water with a tiny amount of forest fruit syrup. If this would have been cask strength, the harshness you get from Ruby Port finishes probably would have been easily noticeable. Instead, the reduction and the sweetness are able to keep the Ruby Port in check. Just like the 12yo I reviewed last, this has a pretty weak again and it has a finish with some cask toast thrown in for good measure, but it helps. Up untill the body, the Whisky has quite some good aroma, and then the finish comes which has the length of a snuffed out candle. It’s alight for one moment and gone the next. This really needs to be slightly higher in strength, as well as the 12yo. If 46% ABV is too much, at least adopt 43% as a minimum strength for Single Malt Whisky. Sure in the olden days a lot of Malts were 40% and held their ground, but today’s yield driven more modern Malts seem to need a higher strength than that…

Personally I find the choice for Ruby Port always very tricky. Whereas Tawny Port is easier to use and gives usually better results, because Ruby Port finishes can be very harsh and are easily overdone. Luckily here the finish seems to be OK. The 12yo was quite simple, fruity and sweet, but for me this Distillers Edition has something more to say, especially on the nose. Concerning the taste, the Port is not always good match for the sweetness of the Cragganmore Malt. The first time I tried it, it didn’t work, the next day I liked it, but maybe that’s saying more about me than the Malt. It still is an easy peasy Malt, not all that complex. It is quite interesting and I do quite like it. I prefer it over the 12yo.

Points: 84

Cragganmore 12yo (40%, OB, Circa 2002)

A short introduction: Cragganmore was founded in 1869 by Glenfarclas’ John Smith and stays within the family untill 1923 when it is sold to the newly formed Cragganmore Distillery Co. In 1927 Cragganmore is 50% owned by DCL, one of the precursors of todays Diageo. In 1965 DCL buys the second half of Cragganmore to become 100% owner. In 1988 this Cragganmore 12yo becomes part of the Classic Malts Series, and in 1998 the Cragganmore Distillers Edition sees the light of day (more about that later), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and have a go at this 12yo that was bottled back in 2002…

Cragganmore 12yo (40%, OB, Circa 2002)Color: Gold.

Nose: Fruity and malty. Quite some hints of caramel. Chilled produce, sugared yellow fruits and some candied orange. Waxy with an air of menthol. Hints of cardboard and toasted oak. Perfumy and vegetal. Fern on a dry forest floor. Sweetish, but also some oak acidity. Give it some time and the oak turns more spicy. Otherwise it is light, with creamy vanilla, wax and candied sweet yellow fruits.

Taste: Waxy and toffeed. Quite fruity and light. Dried peach and old dried apricots. Hints of clay. Warming. Damp earth from the forest again. Maybe some mushroom? Yellow fruit sweet yoghurt. A funky acidity creeps in. Very soft warm oozing caramel. Soft distant wood. Cigar box wood. Simple, light and likeable. Tiny hint of beer and hops in the finish, which comes as a surprise, also quite sweet with a burnt wood edge too it.

In the end I still feel that it is bit anonymous really. The distillery character is somehow hidden behind fruity sweetness, caramel and wax. Nice fruitiness though. Very easily drinkable. Again an entry-level malt to get you going. Nothing wrong with it, but also nothing special. One you’ll finish quite quickly and you’ll start wondering afterwards where it has gone. If anything, it does invite you to take another sip, as I will do right now..

Points: 81