Sunday, 27 May 2012

Whisky Discovery #117

Cragganmore Distillers Edition 1997 (40% abv, OB Bottled 2010 70cl)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £45.00 70cl

The Distillers Edition Cragganmore, a 12 year old finished in Port pipes
Alongside the Oban Distillers Edition, we were comparing this Cragganmore variant against it in the Magnificent Seven master class. I have briefly tasted the standard expression earlier on in my journey, but this 12 year old has been finished in port pipes.

Cragganmore’s Speyside home is guarded by a striking wrought iron gate spelling its name, which was taken from the nearby hill whose greenstone built the distillery, Craggan Mor.

The Cragganmore Distillery was founded in 1869 by John Smith, who is said to have been the most experienced distiller of his day. He had been manager of Macallan, Glenlivet and Wishaw distilleries, and was lease-holder of Glenfarclas Distillery when he persuaded his landlord, Sir George Macpherson-Grant, to lease him the land to build a new distillery at Ballindalloch beside the Strathspey railway line.

In fact, Cragganmore was the first distillery to be deliberately sited to take advantage of the railway line and a private siding was built to accommodate distillery traffic. John Smith was a great railway enthusiast, but since he weighed 22 stones (140kg) and was too wide to enter a railway carriage, he was obliged to travel in the Guard’s van.

He died in 1886 leaving the business to his son Gordon, who largely rebuilt the distillery in 1901. So it exists in the form we know today, though in keeping with tradition, the two pairs of flat-top stills (designed by John Smith himself), have been preserved throughout.

Barley is naturally a major crop, and the presence of Scotland's fastest flowing river - together with peat from the uplands to the south - was the reason original Cragganmore owner 'Big' John Smith felt that it would be the perfect place for the perfect distillery.

So what did I think?

Again I was fortunate in that I managed to salvage the remains of the tasting bottle at the end of the master class, and so have had some quality time with a dram or two of this. It really is splendid stuff and very drinkable.

It has a wonderful sweet rich Port nose, with vanilla creams, rich fruit, plums and raisins, sweet toffees, and a faint smoke, like scented pipe smoke, it really is delicious. On the palate the rich fruity flavours continue and oranges appear with the cherry. Smooth and wonderfully complex, the Port wine and honey notes giving way to some white pepper on the middle of the tongue. The finish is long, very long. With a toffee sweetness to begin with then a slightly drying smoky end to it.

I have really enjoyed this and so pleased I managed to retain a good sample to bring home and saviour. There was a good amount in the bottle at first, but I shared it with two fellow master class attendees, filling a hip flask up for one guy and pouring a sample bottle for my daughter to take home.

I have heard some good things about the distillers editions for Diageo and both the Oban and Cragganmore were excellent examples of the Master Distillers skills in making something slightly different than normal. This was the fourth Distillers Edition I've tasted in my journey to date, having already tried the excellent Clynelish and mouthwatering Lagavulin. Just the Dalwhinnie and Talisker to go then? Please can I have some more?

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