Jul 152015
 

It’s well known that Gordon and MacPhail has their own approach to barrels. They source their own casks, with a specialty in sherry casks from Jerez, and have them filled at the distilleries. They currently own some 35,000 casks maturing in Elgin, at Benromach and in various distilleries. G&M bottles about 1000 casks every year.

While the Reserve range is not being bottled any more, replaced by the Cask Strength range, although you do find some higher strength bottlings in the Private Collection range. The well known ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ range, as well as the “Distillery Label’ range are the company’s mainstay. You can definitely see a shift toward the super premium category with more bottlings in that category under the ‘Generations’, ‘Private Collection’ and ‘Private Collection Ultra’ (Of which I reviewed the 1953 Linkwood, 1951 Mortlach, 1952 Glenlivet and the 1957 Strathisla).

G&M Reserve

G&M Reserve

Gordon and MacPhail Reserve 1994 Craigellachie, Distilled 14.10.1994, Bottled 23.06-2009, Refill Sherry Hogshead 7325, Yield 273 Bottles (61.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep copper, thin legs with a residual ring remaining on the glass.

Nose: Dusty sherry, the alcohol is strong here and needs quite a bit of water. I let it sit covered in a glass for about 10 minutes and got a deep sherry sweetness and spices. With water it becomes a classic sherry bomb with both a dusty quality and a note of freshness. Cinnamon, pastry, intense dried fruit, specifically apricot leather, light vinegar and demerara sugar.

Palate: That old sherry feel with a lovely bitterness. Pepper and cinnamon over grapefruit rind. This dram isn’t sweet, and is pretty balanced.

Linger: Tangy on the tongue, light dryness on the inside of the cheeks, sweet notes that then give way to a wonderful lingering bitterness with light spice on the top of the gullet.

Conclusion

Nice sherry bomb packing a solid punch. This whisky needs a lot of water and will provide you with a long and enjoyable drink, that will engage your senses and your mind.

Joris, thank you so much for this gem!

 

Jun 172015
 

My review of the Craigellachie 13 was quite unequivocal about how much I disliked that expression. Today I’ll be reviewing a 12 year old single cask bottled by Wemyss Malts that is one of the most interesting Craigellachie expressions I’ve had, even though it’s somewhat untamed and sits right on the cusp of losing its “baby fat” and becoming a properly matured whisky, and therein is the strength of this bottling.

Photo Credit: whisky.de

Photo Credit: whisky.de

Craigellachie stills create little reflux, and thus produce a spirit that’s rather rough, oily and sulfuric, effects which the official 13 year old does not mitigate well. In sherry casks, however, younger Craigellachies do quite well, as does this expression:

Photo Credit: whisky-on-line.com

Photo Credit: whisky-on-line.com

Wemyss Malts Craigellachie 2002 “Dark Treacle Fondant” – Sherry Butt, Yield 804 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Apperance: Bronze, thin and long legs.

Nose: Somewhat untame with sour wood spices, cinnamon, chocolate milk, quite a bit of malt, deep sweet notes. Classic sherry notes follow after time with Sultanas and dark berries with bittersweet chocolate and a latte coffee.

Palate: That sweet and sour note from the nose is first, then come the spices with pepper and cinnamon with a sprinkle of brown sugar, with touches of oak.

Linger: Spice, namely cinnamon and clove, chocolate and light sour notes on the palate. Light spice comes in on the back of the throat and a light tartness inside the cheeks.

Conclusion

This Craigellachie is two faced – on the one hand it’s youngish, malty and fresh and on the other is a spirit that has a lot of respect for the sherry cask in which its been maturing.

This is a very interesting whisky, and my only concern is its price point. At €85 in the Netherlands, it’s priced at the higher end of a level more appropriate of cask strength bottlings, not expressions watered down to 46%. For comparison, the same store sells the already overpriced OB 13 (also at 46%) for €50. At €60-65, I would have gladly added a bottle of this whisky to my cabinet.

 

Apr 032015
 

There’s some real history being made here. In the summer there were a couple of travel retail exclusive bottlings for Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (and you can see my review of the controversial Aultmore XO, and there was also a Craigellechie 18 I didn’t get to taste), but those are limited to people flying out of the country. The two single cask bottlings for Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015 (you can find the recap here) are the first ever special single casks aimed at the Israeli consumer inside Israel. There were two bottles available: This 7 year old Craigellachie and the other is a fascinating Tormore 19, to be reviewed in this space. As with the show itself, these exclusive bottlings are the brainchild and doing of Tomer Goren (@WhiskyIL), a fellow Malt Monger and the owner of one of Israel’s leading liquor stores, as well as Milk and Honey Distillery’s distiller.

Thank you, Tomer, for all you’re doing to make Israel a whisky empire!

Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015 Exclusives...

Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015 Exclusives…

Craigellachie 7 Year Old – Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015 Bottling, Butt 900771, Distilled 2007, Bottled 2015, 654 Bottles (66% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, quick legs but a ring of residue remains in glass.

Nose: Young sherry, very fruity, warm spices, malt, a baking cake, cinnamon bun with glaze, toasted wood. With time in glass, a somewhat sour note develops.

Palate: At first there’s a sweet wave, then some spice and they dissipate into hints of fruit. Water brings out more fruitiness and moves the spice to the top of the palate (interesting sensation there).

Linger: Without water you get concentrated sweetness (almost like artificial sweetener) and notes of cinnamon. Water makes the linger on this shine with some dryness, a warm sweetness, cinnamon and light clove. The finish lingers for a long time on the palate, and the spices in the throat. The finish on this one is really good.

 

Conclusion

This is young, but very enjoyable with the sherry in the background, but is by no means a sherry bomb. It was also very reasonably priced at €48 pre VAT (250 ILS including VAT, or €57).

I bought a bottle (well, I bought one, but didn’t take delivery of it yet), and look forward to seeing how it develops with some breathing 🙂

Dec 042014
 

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.

Conclusion

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.

Dec 032014
 

Age does not denote quality in whisky. Don’t take this as a statement of support of NAS, as I’m pretty vocal about my opposition to the practice. Not because it’s necessarily bad whisky, but because the consumer has a right to know all there is to know about the whisky he buys. Young whisky can be great, but tell us about it. If you need proof, just look at Kilchoman who successfully sell three to five year old whisky for £70 a bottle.

Photo Credit: www.britainfromabove.org.uk

Photo Credit: www.britainfromabove.org.uk

In our case, the 19 year old Craigellachie is a step back from the 17 and is a close relation of the 13 retaining the sour and vegetal notes. While not surprising, given the distillery character, I’d expect more from an expression priced at €120.

Craigellachie 19 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold with thin legs and lots of residue droplets.

Nose: Somewhat sour at first, the warm honey and vanilla are found right under the sourness. Retaining the sour nose, there are floral notes and a baking lemon meringue. There is a vegetal note of crushed leaves.

Palate: Citrus spice and open meadows with a sour note throughout.

Linger: The sourness is long on the sides of the tongue, where the center has a sweet spice and artificial sweetener notes.

Conclusion

Pretty similar to the 13, which can be had for less than half the price, this expression is superfluous in the range. It’s a step back from the 17 and not in the direction of the 23.