A darling of Speyside, Cragganmore was long known as an indispensible malt for blends until becoming part of Diageo’s Classic Malt series in 1988. It still seems to fly under the radar a bit, though the distillery’s 12 Year Old is a highly regarded, complex dram. This independent edition of 357 bottles was aged for 13 years in a bourbon hogshead.
The Nose: Mmmm, so floral, full bloom if you will. Pineapple, some grape skins, and a little canned fruit cocktail. All balanced with nice grain notes and a slight earthiness.
The Palate: Slightly oily mouthfeel, tropical fruits and vanilla quickly become spicy, and while the fruit sticks around to help things transition nicely, good clove and cinnamon notes increase towards the end with just a hint of chicory and smoke.
The Finish: Longish, that little bit of smoke lingers with some roasted coffee bean tones.
Thoughts: Very good stuff. Great balance, texture, structure, all of that. It builds its way nicely through a lot of different flavors from the floral & fruit of the nose to the almost rustic spice and smoke of the finish. I really enjoy the varied complexity of Cragganmore and this one is no exception.
Signatory 1997 Cragganmore 13 Year Old, Speyside
Another distillery whose whisky I’ve only tasted in independent bottlings. Located near Fort William in the Western Highlands, Ben Nevis is currently owned by the Japan’s Nikka Whisky Distillery Company. After barely functioning in the 1980’s, Ben Nevis’ sale to Nikka in 1989 revived the brand and today, they currently offer a 10 year old single malt and a line of blends.
The Nose: Wow. A rich, sherried, winey nose full of stewed raisins and plum jam. Nice notes of dark chocolate and toasted grain, with rich oak and leather to balance things out.
The Palate: Sweet, honeyed entry, there’s still a nice, raisiny sherry influence to start with, then the oak begins to take over. Lots of drying, spicy tannins dominate the middle along with a bit of baking spice. Towards the end more of those dark chocolate grain notes come out.
The Finish: Fiery and tannic, this actually fades a bit more quickly than I expected.
Thoughts: A really beautiful nose that makes excellent use of all those years in Sherry wood. The influence is definitely there, not dominating, just complimenting. The palate starts with many similar tones but is a little overwhelmed by the oak. The end was a bit too tannic, and although it retained a decent amount of complexity, the dryness was a little too much. Definitely one to sip and savor, rich and woody, great for a late, chilly, Fall afternoon.
Signatory 1992 Ben Nevis 18 Year Old, West Highland