Hobbies are something that can go by the wayside. For instance, in the past few months, I haven’t been able to write many reviews or drink much whisky. Work, school, and oh, a small worldwide pandemic have gotten in the way.
Thus why all the multi-reviews.
So here we are, at Craigellachie. What can be said that I haven’t mentioned before? Hipster bottles, Speyside standard, a name that I can’t pronounce no matter how many times I’m told.
However, I’m not one to give up on a distillery. There’s always a chance for something to be great. Someone to make a mark. Or a single cask to stand out.
So today I’ll review five more Craigellachie. The first two both showed up to a tasting and of course, in my completionist mind, I needed to drink the other samples I had about.
Thanks to /u/ScotchGuyTO and The_Muskox for these first two samples.
Up first we have two whiskies from Hunter and Douglas Laing. The brothers may not be working together anymore, however, their father’s independent bottle lines still exist, under each of their names.
But who did better with Craigellachie? That’s why brothers are measured, right?
Craigellachie 12 2006 Old Malt Cask Hunter Laing (Cask 16806)
Price: £ 61
Distilled: May 2006
Cask Type: Sherry Butt
Cask Number: HL 15806
Number of bottles: 285
Colour: 7.5Y 8/8
Nose: Cream, pineapple, confetti cake, orange
Citrus and strong cake/easy dessert vibes. Don’t take that as a hit, either: Easy desserts are awesome and full of nostalgia.
That said, I’m not getting enough contrast here. If I said it was all high notes, would that make me a snobby douche? Yes. I guess think of it like having a cheap orange punch where it’s all sugary. The cream tries, but doesn’t really succeed enough. Need something richer or savoury.
Taste: Mango, molasses, strawberry, papaya, hazelnut
Tropical, more fruit, some of that needed “low note” (man, I’m being hard on myself here, it’s okay, people will understand) in the molasses and hazelnut. I would have liked some spice here or a bit more than just “sweet”.
Finish: Molasses, tannic, brine, gravel, molasses
Alright, all the unsweet parts settled at the bottom (that’s how whisky works, right? [Since this is the internet I feel the need to say I don’t actually believe that]).
Lots of molasses, some tannic… It’s gone from needing to be balanced to having a fight about being balanced. So you know, like a family dinner discussion about politics.
Conclusion: Alright, nice to sip on, though at the end of the day it’s very, very sweet. Just kept hitting that sweet note over and over again. The finish attempts to make up for it, but unless you’re harkening back to the days of your first attempt at making gingerbread as a kid (man those were very brown gingerbread men).
I think maybe some time or a different cask could have balanced this. As it is, it’s worth having as a cheap dram or on sale.
Craigellachie 18 1999 Old Particular Douglas Laing
Price: £ 68
Cask type: Ex-Sherry Butt
Cask number: DL 12218
Number of bottles: 295
Colour: 10YR 8/10
Nose: Buttery salted corn, caramel, pine
Immediate grain/corn note with a lot of butter and salt. Immediate BBQ vibes to the point where I’m picking at my teeth or duelling my cousin with tiny stabby corn things.
Eventually, that subsides to more butter (in the form of caramel) and some… pine? I mean…. I know I called it hipster before all this but I didn’t expect the full lumberjack. Yet here we are.
Taste: Chocolate, peach pie, red licorice
The notes that do show up are somewhat complex but also few in number. It’s very focused. I don’t know if I like the combination, and again, we’re in sweets country, this time with butter as a faithful guide.
Finish: Burnt toast, peach, mineral, anise
Bit of char, some fruit and mineral. If the rest of the dram was laser-focused complexity, this is a simple, alright finish that’s balanced. Kinda like when you call someone “nice”: It’s the default we all try to follow, it’s not a compliment.
Conclusion: Buttery, sweet dram, but better balance this time around. Thus this brother gets to have kids. The other will be hung from his toes until the blood loss forces him sterile.
Oh, wait, it means nothing I’m just some schmuck on the internet and others may differ.
So this has some complexity but feels like it stalls places or it just gives enough. I certainly didn’t hate it, and frankly, I don’t think you’d be annoyed about buying this given the price. It’s another whisky that you get because of a decent age and an alright price.
Craigellachie 8 Signatory Vintage Collection – Cask Strength was part of a multi-part tasting that I couldn’t go to because I was sick. I actually was supposed to blather on before each dram, because that would make the whisky taste better, right?
Anyway, the idea here is simple: Cask Strength, youthful, picked by Binny’s, after being picked by Signatory.
Will Craigellachie, left to just ex-bourbon influence and at rocket strength, be better? Are the sherry and silly marketing getting in the way? Maybe. Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $80? I think
Cask Type: Bourbon Barrel
Cask number: 800123
Number of bottles: 215
Nose: Grape juice, caraway, caramel, peach, butterscotch
Immediate strong tart, seed, and sweet notes. Very, very strong. Gets right up there on you. This is strong. Water is good, though it gets really, really sweet in here.
Taste: Anise, mint, caramel, burnt sugar
Take some spice, some hot spice, and a bunch of burnt sugar. Want more? YOU GOT IT!
If this whisky was a typeface, it’d be your grandparents sending a message that sounds like they are screaming it from four counties over.
Finish: Vanilla, floral, caramel, dry pear, white plum
The floral aspect is nice and needed. It’s dry, floral, and all of that nearly takes out the super sweet aspects. Don’t get this sweet freak wrong, I do enjoy that, but it can be a bit much.
Conclusion: Bit too sweet. This is a dram that would last you a long time because you’re never going to drink more than ½ an oz at a time. Most of you, at least.
It’s brash, but not that bad. It’s a finishing whisky if you don’t have peat on hand, a strong whisky to see what it could do. I like the finish, the taste wasn’t anything to scream about (but it will) and the nose was a lot.
Thanks to /u/cartharticintent for sharing this dram.
Craigellachie 7 2008 Duncan Taylor Octave is another young Craigellachie, but this time we did something different: We took a work in progress and put it in an octave sherry cask. The small size of the cask and seemingly wet nature of it means that it ages quicker and has more impact.
How long in the small cask? 5 or 8, because it says two different times on the box and description… dammit.
Whatever, I’m all for taking something and having fun. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: I had a hard time finding this, so I’m sorry.
Cask No. 7510555
Cask Type: Oak Casks finished in a Small Octave for an extra 5 months (box says 5, though I found a description that said 8, so… dammit).
Year Bottled: 2015
Number of bottles: 109
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Raspberry, orange, burn
Fruit, which is on fire. You know the old story: You’re having fruit, not looking, and boom: The one you stuck in your mouth was the on fire one. That old ubiquitous, everyday occurrence.
Yeah, this is rocket fuel. Water brought out more tart and acidity and fruit and burn. Very, very strong stuff.
Taste: Brown sugar, orange, cardamom, nutmeg
Alright, more nuance. It’s reminding me of mulled wine, but a sweeter mulled wine. Very sweet, actually, though the spice is nice. Also orange and sweet are working.
But holy damn that’s sweet and strong.
Finish: Cereal, heather, orange, earth, nutmeg
Grassy, cereal heavy, and then a giant mixture of orange and spice. It all hits you like falling into your spice garden (yeah, people have those) face first.
Conclusion: It’s an unbalanced mess of orange and spice, which should go together but this doesn’t do it. I kept having parts I should love and didn’t, or other parts that were just pure burn. It needed more time.
Yes, this may scratch an itch you have. You may love spice (like I do) or love orange (like I don’t). And it’s a different approach to Craigellachie. But it’s a pass for me. This tastes like they had a cheap barrel and put it in an octave cask to fix it and it didn’t taste totally horrible.
Thanks to /u/Amesey for this sample.
Craigellachie 17 is the middle child of the standard offerings. Yes, I’m saying middle child. I know they have four standard offerings, but if we’re counting the 39 as a “standard” then I’ll be counting Bugatti as a family sedan. Good? Great.
So what does Craigellachie do? They finish things when they are ready. So you start with a 13, then go to 17, and then it’s up to their standards at 23 again. No idea after that. None at all (this is sarcasm).
So this comes from American Oak casks and has a different number than the other Scotches. But how does it taste? Let’s see, shall we?
Cask Type: American Oak Casks
Colour: 10YR 4/8
Nose: Honey, nutty, strawberry, plum, molasses
Sweet, some nuttiness, some strawberry and fruit. Fruit takes over more than anything else. I like the honey, feel that a bit of spice or maybe a bit more could work here.
Taste: Peanut, melon, cereal, herbal, button mushroom
Nutty, a bit of standard generic melon fruit and cereal. Some earth going on here. It’s not cohesive, feels like you’re eating things that don’t go together like a charcuterie board from the end of the world.
Finish: Strawberry, brine, brown sugar, heather, earth
Nice fruit, some salt, some sugar. A bit of that char from the cask is giving that smoke/grass note. More of the earth from the whisky.
Conclusion: It’s balanced. That’s cool. Otherwise just alright. I really don’t have much to say on this one. It’s really easy to drink and people will enjoy it. Have a non-hardcore whisky fan in your life? And don’t want to just buy them another Islay? This is it.
If store brand chocolate ice cream was a whisky, this would be it. Most will enjoy it. But if you compared it to, say, a Haagen Daas quadruple chocolate and brandy or a rosemary blueberry gelato handmade by nonna? It comes off as a Trump steak at a Texas BBQ joint.
Scotch review #1305-9, Speyside review #353-7, Whisky Network review #1960-4