Thursday, April 14, 2016

Whisky Review: Cragganmore 12 Year

Cragganmore is one of Diageo's core Speyside malt distilleries. It forms the basis for a number of their critical blends, especially Green Label, but is also bottled as a single malt for their Classic Malts series.

The distillery is distinguished by a few characteristics: their malt is lightly peated (I've seen 3 PPM, but that is barely over the natural phenol content, so I would guess more like 5-8 PPM), their spirit stills are 'T-shaped', with a truncated top instead of the usual gentle swan neck curve, and the spirit is condensed in worm tubs rather than the now-standard shell condensers.

The 12 Year is bottled at 40% with coloring and chill filtration.

Cragganmore 12 Year

Nose: very malty, savory caramel, moderate dry oak, fizzy bourbon cask fruit/berry esters, a hint of citrus peel, grassy/floral, vanilla, a touch of peat. After adding a few drops of water the malt becomes bigger and musky, and some honey graham cracker notes come out.

Taste: malty sweetness up front, bourbon cask fruit esters, vanilla, bubblegum, floral and grassy notes ride above the middle, fade out through savory notes, bittersweet oak/tea, and dry malt/grass with just a touch of peat. After dilution the bittersweet oak becomes much stronger and spreads across the palate, giving it a drier character.

Finish: wintergreen Tums, lavender, malt, a touch of oak, barely detectable peat

I tried this once before at a bar and recorded very similar notes. This is one of those whiskies that feels like it could be so much more, but as so frequently happens Diageo has neutered it in an effort to broaden its appeal. While it's arguably got a bit more going on than the standard Glens, the equally priced and equally available Clynelish 14 Year trumps it in every category. I was glad to only have a 200 mL bottle of this whisky, which is exactly what I expected despite the higher unit cost. What this does do is convince me that I want to try some indie Cragganmore.

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