Cragganmore distillery is located in the village of Ballindalloch in Banffshire and is named after the nearby Craggan More (gaelic for 'big rock') hill. It was founded in 1869 by John Smith on land leased from George Macpherson-Grant. After John Smith’s death in 1886 his trustees continued operating the distillery until 1893 when John's son Gordon took over as manager. In 1923 the distillery was acquired by the Glenlivet Distillery Company Ltd that was owned by both the Ballindalloch Estate and White Horse Distillers Ltd. The White Horse shares were transferred to the Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1927, and by 1965 DCL had acquired all remaining shares. Since 1988 Cragganmore has been the Speyside representative in Diageo's Classic Malts range. About 30% of the production is sold as single malt, with the remaining part being used in blends such as White Horse and Old Parr. This 17-year old special edition was distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2006 with a total outturn of 5,970 bottles. It was uniquely matured in refill American oak hogsheads.
The nose starts with rich and intense maltiness and without any of the alcoholic burn that you would expect given the high ABV. After that flavours of vanilla, marzipan, and liquorice follow. Adding water brings notes of milk chocolate and cinnamon to the fore. Without doubt this is a very, very lush and rich nose!
The palate is medium-bodied, creamy, and a tad dry. Wood spice appears first, followed by vanilla, honey, caramel, and again milk chocolate. With a bit of water the wood spice becomes more intense and tends to cover the remaining flavours. Clearly, this is best enjoyed neat.
The finish is long, dry and warming. The vanilla and liquorice notes are back, together with soft wood spice.
I simply adored the nose of this special edition Cragganmore. In a way you could say that this is what single malt whisky is all about: rich, lush, and seductively malty! The palate, however, did not quite manage to live up to the expectations generated by the nose, especially if water was being added. Still, I enjoyed every drop of my bottle and would get another one anytime if I were able to lay my hands on one at a decent price.
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