Craigellachie 23 – Good Whisky, but What’s Up with the Pricing?

Before I get to the whisky itself, which is really good, although I liked the 17 better, I have to say something about pricing. Back in August, when the range was announced, I thought these new expressions, in the “Last Great Malts” series bringing the Dewar’s distilleries single malts to market were the biggest news of the year.

By the way, the PR guys did a great job with this short film:

Then the pricing for the Craigellachie range was announced. The 13 and 17 were priced relatively high in their price brackets, £40 and £80, respectively,  but not prohibitively so. As I mentioned in their respective reviews (you can find the 13 here and the 17 here), the merit of the whisky can be debated vis-à-vis the value it offers. My own conclusions were that the 13 did not offer a good value, but the 17 did. The price of the 23 just took everybody’s breath away. £330!! After everybody’s eyes stopped watering, our reaction was that this must be some mistake. The fabulous Glengoyne 25 which I reviewed last week, is only £232, and even there you’ll hear people grumbling about VFM. It has to be a mistake.

Only it wasn’t. UK stores actually charge £330 for this expression. We all filed it under the “crazy but true stories of whisky” and thought no bottle will ever sell. Then the bottles started to surface in continental stores (in Germany and the Netherlands) at a very reasonable €160. Inquiries were made, bottles were bought (including a couple that made their way to Israel) and some sense had to be made in this chaos.

My friend and colleague Yoav, proprietor of the Whisky Gospel blog, made extensive inquires with Bacradi executives, drink distributors and stores and came up with one conclusion: The European bottles were a parallel import, not official Bacardi distribution, and Bacardi has every intention of keeping the official pricing high. As Stephen Marshal, Bacardi Global Marketing Manager for Whisky (you can see him in the video, BTW) told Yoav: “We’re not responsible for retailer pricing, it’s entirely up to them”. Come on, Stephen, If Bacardi sold it to stores for £100 a bottle, instead of £220-£250, consumers would pay £150, not £330. You can find Yoav’s full rant here.

The bottom line is this. It’s very good whisky, worth €160. It’s nowhere in the range of £330 (€420). Not even close!

Let’s take a look at the whisky itself:

Craigellachie 23 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep gold, thin legs with a ring of droplets.

Nose: Honey and open fields, freshly cut leaves, star licorice, coconut jelly beans, wood, Black Tabac aftershave lotion, pound cake. After some time you get those sour notes so prevalent in the series.

Palate: Coconut, honey, spices (cinnamon and faint nutmeg), saccharin, wood and citrus bitterness. The whisky is mouth filling and chewy.

Linger: The signature sour notes come through in the finish with some honey sweetness on the tongue. The linger isn’t overly long.


Well crafted, interesting and fresh, this expression definitely merits a return.

I did like the 17 better, as it’s as rich in aromas and flavors and has a better finish (and has a good VFM), but the 23 is really good whisky. Whisky that was priced so far out of its class, that made it completely irrelevant as anything other than a curiosity, which is a shame, because it’s really, really drinkable.

I can also tell you that this pricing fiasco has taken all the fun out of waiting for The Deveron, Aultmore and Royal Brackla, due out in 2015. One can only hope that in setting the prices for the rest of  “Last Great Malts” Einstein’s words about sanity and madness will be observed. In his words, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

4 comments on “Craigellachie 23 – Good Whisky, but What’s Up with the Pricing?
  1. Rod Graham says:

    An interesting article, thank you. But I do have one question. You say

    After some time you get those sour notes so prevalent in the series.

    I don’t understand. Do you mean all of the ‘Last Malts’ releases, or just the Craigellachies?



    • Hi Rod, thanks for your question.
      Only the Craigellachie.
      The Aultmore expressions just came out and I didn’t get my hands on a sample yet. The Deveron (Macduff distillery) and Royal Brackla will be appearing later in 2015.
      I”m looking forward reviewing the other expressions as well 🙂

  2. Jon says:

    Did Craig 23 winning Best in Show at San Fran last year make you wince at your review?

    It’s not often something as unique as Craigellachie gets resurfaced and the 23 expression is top class.

    • Not in the least, Jon.
      I fully stand behind every word I wrote. In my blog, I offer my own opinion. I actually form it myself by tasting the whisky firsthand and evaluating what I consider to be good value vis a vis the price. My independent opinion is NEVER swayed by prizes, honorable mentions, self proclaimed bibles, high numeric scores or anybody’s opinion but my own. If the whisky is outrageously priced in my opinion, I’ll call the producer out, even if the liquid is good. If the whisky sucks, you’ll hear it too.
      If you read the review, you’ll note that I thought the whisky itself is good, and on its own, can merit a prize in a show. When you factor in the price, Bacardi went way over the top, and got called out on it.
      My blog is out there to offer my own, honest and unbiased opinion. If I don’t like a whisky or its pricing, a thousand other opinions won’t make me wince.
      In this case, however, the award simply echoed my opinion. If you read the review, my opinion was “The bottom line is this. It’s very good whisky”. So basically, you took exception to the rest of my evaluation stating that the 23 is “…worth €160. It’s nowhere in the range of £330 (€420). Not even close!”. That’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, and you can pay £330 for a 23 year old. But me “wincing” over a panel of judges’ opinion on an expression? Not even close….
      By the way, I think that’s why my readers come back to my blog: It’s honest. I’ll never “wince” over a review over a prize or a “whisky of the year” award, no matter who awarded it. They come to back to hear what my thoughts were and to get some information about the whisky. Nothing more, nothing less….

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