I received this bottle from my wife as a 13th anniversary present...she picked it up because it was on clearance at the LCBO (they are trying to liquidate all their remaining 20cl bottles), so it was just under $20 CAD. Prior to cracking it open, I'd never tried anything from Cragganmore, apart from what found its way into the recently deceased JW Green Label (which I greatly prefer).
On Friday, March 8, 2013, I sat down with my friend Jeff to do a second evaluation of the NEAT glasses that I'd received from @Arsilica. As with the previous test (see my review of the Penderyn: NEAT Challenge - Part I), we also employed a square shot glass, a Speyside glass, and a Glencairn Canadian. The scoring has been broken down below. Please note that for the final score, I averaged each of our top three scores (rounded up; this effectively eliminated the scores from the square shot glasses).
NEAT - N 18, T 17, F 16, B 15 - T 66
Shot - N 8, T 11, F 11, B 12 - T 42
Spey - N 15, T 15, F 13, B 12 - T 55
Glen - N 17, T 16, F 15, B 15 - T 63
NEAT - N 17, T 16, F 15, B 15 - T 63
Shot - N 10, T 12, F 11, B 11 - T 44
Spey - N 12, T 13, F 13, B 13 - T 51
Glen - N 15, T 14, F 14, B 14 - T 56
I was certainly disappointed with the Cragganmore, which we dubbed 'CragganBORE' or 'CragganSNORE'. While the box touts it as having a very sophisticated and complex nose, with sweetish notes and smoky maltiness on the finish, we didn't get any of that...what we found was just the opposite: a closed, uninspired nose with some vanilla and floral notes with a hint of butter (using the NEAT we were also able to pick out some grass and a very faint whiff of smoke).
On the palate we got more butter (sort of dry, stale pastry), a tiny bit of fruity malt, and day-old pound cake...not at all what we expected for such a highly vaunted 12 year-old Speysider.
The finish was short and malty, with the tiniest hint of smoke, but mostly there was the overpowering buttery-ness.
I'm tempted to say that the bottle was off, since outside of my experience with a few NAS Canadian whiskies, I've never had something so bland and sub-par, and even the NEAT, which performed as advertised and eliminated the alcohol burn from the nose was unable to tease much out more of it.
Would I buy a full bottle? I'm not sure, as the a 75cl bottle at the LCBO is currently $84.95 CAD...I've had far better 12 year-old or younger whiskies for much less (Highland Park, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Aberlour 10, JW Black Label, Taketsuru 12, Talisker 10...even the Clynelish 14 is cheaper...).