Craigellachie is spearheading Dewar’s (i.e. Bacardi’s) emergence into the single malt market with five core expressions: 13, 17, 19 (travel retail), 23 and 31. When this move was announced in August, there was much excitement about the expressions (of all Dewar’s distilleries) being with full age statements, 46% ABV, non chill filtered and natural color. Here’s a company doing right. Until pricing was announced. I’ll mention the 23’s fiasco in three days when we get there, but the whole range is priced at the highest tip of their age ranges, and we’ll try to figure out if they represent good value at those points.
At first look, the choice of ages seems somewhat baffling and out of sync with traditional ages. In truth, Dewar’s marketing department had a stroke of mathematical genius, setting itself apart using prime numbers for the whisky ages. This series will review the 13-23, and will not include the 31 year old, which I tasted at the Whisky Show but did not properly note.
I’ll talk more about the distillery itself as the series progresses, but I want to start off with Craigellachie’s stills.
In the post I wrote on still shape and size effect on the spirit character I noted the effect still size and shape have on the character of the spirit they produce. One look at the Craigellachie stills should set our expectations for the spirit style. The onion stills at Craigellachie are designed to minimize copper contact, with nothing to cause reflux, the alcohol vapors go up and out. What you’ll get from a still like this is an oily and rather estery new make.
Thus, it’s hardly surprising that these four releases have an oily and a characteristic ‘Craigellachie sour’ note in the nose (and I want to clarify that sour does not equal bad!). It is with this in mind that we approach the new range. Also I’ll note that all the Craigellachies I’ve had before were sherry cask matured, so I’m really approaching this one with a clean slate.
Craigellachie 13 (46% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold with thin legs and a lot of residual drops.
Nose: Vinegary and vegetal with spice underlying. Oily with some sulfur which actually increases over time. One drop of water: Enhances the sweet golden spice in the nose.
Palate: Starts off sour (which is one of the signatures of this series) with notes of dry white wine and grapefruit.
Linger: Tart on sides of the tongue, with a white wine linger.
This really isn’t what my sherry cask matured Old Malt Cask Craigellachie 11 prepared me for. The 13 is sour and vegetal and somewhat harsh.
Would I recommend this whisky?
While the principle of de gustibus non est disputandum clearly applies, this expression wouldn’t make a permanent home in my drinking cabinet. As for VFM, it’s priced at £42 which is rather expensive for comparable 12 year old expressions (yes, this is 13 years old, and 46% but there are yet higher ABV 12 year olds that are cheaper) and is priced like the Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel (at 47.8% and £43.81).
If you’re debating which of these to get me for my upcoming birthday, don’t. It isn’t the Craigellachie 🙂