Once again, I’ll evoke the principle of de gustibus non est disputandum and take a different direction than others who have written on this series (namely my friend and colleague Yoav of Whisky Gospel) . There are quite a few distilleries that I find a lower range expression to be better than a higher expression, and Craigellachie is one of them. While the 23 is, indeed, a well crafted whisky, I think the 17 is a better whisky, even if you discount the UK/EUR price issues, upon which I’ll elaborate in two days.
While the 13 was vegetal and somewhat sulfury (see the review here), I found the 17 to be delightful. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I have a proclivity for bitter flavors and the 17 replaces the sour (less up my ally) with bitter which works quite well.
Craigellachie 17 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold with slow legs and a noticeable ring left on glass.
Nose: Floral with a lot of vanilla, cotton candy and marshmallow. Lemon pound cake and fresh grapes join in. With the whisky in a covered glass for about 10 minutes, the sour nose of the 13 appeared, but dissipated almost immediately when uncovered. Cinnamon appears too as well as some star fruit.
Palate: Relatively bitter and far less sour than the 13, with spice – chili pepper, cinnamon and cardamom – with a light sweetness. For a fleeting moment the taste of IPA beer crosses the tongue.
Linger: Bitter citrus in the mouth, tangy on the sides of tongue and spicy down the gullet. This finish is close to perfection!!
I think this is the real gem in the range. It’s past the “danger zone” of onion still character that dominates the younger expressions of the meaty distilleries (Craigellachie, Mortlach and the like) and works really well.
At £80, it’s on the higher end of the “normal” 18 year old range, but isn’t priced beyond reason. Combined with the quality of this whisky and the rich drinking experience, I think it provides a decent VFM.