Nose: smells exactly as I hoped it would. Clean malt and a luscious bouquet of fruit. All kinds of fruit, too: citrus, grape, cherries, red berries. Yet for all that fruit it doesn't smell like port; the casks are in perfect harmony with the malt and the fruitiness comes across as natural to this whisky rather than added on.
Like the standard Cragganmore, there is a freshness to the aroma which sort of reminds me of laundered linens. And then in the background there is just a light hint of smoke which some might not even notice but for me is integral to the Cragganmore experience. This just might be the perfect nose for me.
Taste: a smooth start with sweet maltiness and a quick hit of grapey flavor before drying smoke and wood kick in. Though the taste doesn't quite delight the senses as much as the smell, it comes across as a clean, well-made whisky with a good balance of sweet and dry flavours. Also not nearly as fruity as the nose would suggest.
Finish: quite dry with some grape notes covered by that touch of smoke. Just a slight bitterness as it fades.
Balance: slightly front-loaded with the aroma taking centre stage, but still a wonderful malt overall. If you don't care much for Cragganmore this one probably won't win you over, as it stays very much in the same ballpark at the standard 12 year old but with extra depth from the casks. Would love to try this at cask strength