Speyside visit update: Cragganmore
Good news. I was going to be out of the office the next few days and would not be able to blog about my trip. (I bought a boat. I was going to drive to the Jersey Shore today to the marina where the boat is and take the boat to the slip that I rented.) But all this has been pushed back one week.
So, you will hear a lot from me this week, and very little from me next week. I am sitting with my computer on my lap and my golden retriever at my feet. (I decided to work at home today and skip going into the office. I get more writing done.) I thought I’d post briefly on my visit to Cragganmore.
I toured the distillery with Nick Morgan, Director of Malts for Diageo (and a longtime friend) and Andy Cant, Distilleries Manager for Cragganmore, Cardhu and Knockando. (No, I didn’t even “go there” regarding the whole Cardhu thing.) The highlight of my visit was the tasting after the tour.
Lined up in front of us were the six distillery bottlings released over the past decade or so. They were (in the order that we tasted them): Standard 10 yr., Distillers’ Edition 1992 Vintage, 14 yr. old, 10 yr. old cask strength, 17 yr. old cask strength, and 29 yr. old cask strength. Of this group, the 14 yr. old and 17 yr. old expressions were not imported to the U.S.
The most humorous part of the tasting (for me, not for Andy) was when Nick was looking at the whisky labels and said: “Hey Andy, did you know that you opened Bottle #1 of the 14 yr. old?”
Andy looked at the label and continued staring at the label as his face turned white. Not a word was spoken for what seemed like minutes (although was probably only about 10 seconds). Nick and I then began to laugh. Although, I really felt sorry for Andy.
You see, distilleries like to keep Bottle #1 of any limited releases. Many times, it will be on display at the distillery. Not this time. (According to Nick, the 14 yr. old was released in 2001 for the Friends of Classic Malts.)
I’m not sure if Andy has told his boss yet. If he hasn’t, let’s hope the guy’s not reading this blog! Andy told me later that it took him several hours for him to recover from the whole thing.
Anyway, back to the whiskies. It was interesting to see the difference in personality between the six whiskies. The Distillers’ Edition is finished in port, the 14 yr. old was what I would call “moderately sherried” (probably a combination of first, second, and maybe even refill or fino sherry casks), and the 10 yr. old cask strength was very sherried (my guess would be mostly first fill sherry cask). The standard 10 yr. the 17 yr., and 20 yr., all seemed to be from ex-bourbon casks.
My take on the whole thing? (And I think this was unanimous, by the way.) The 17 was the best of the bunch. So much so that I brought a bottle home with me. It was dry and balanced like the standard 10 yr., but deeper and more complex.
I actually liked the standard 10 next, followed by the 29 yr. (Although there was some subtle mustiness in the 29. Looking back, I wonder if the bottle wasn’t corked?) Anyway, the moderately sherried 14 yr. and port wood finished Distillers’ Edition were also very nice, although masking some of Cragganmore’s more subtle notes. The only one that I didn’t fancy was the very sherried 10 yr. limited edition cask strength. The sherry dominated the flavor profile. Of course, as luck would have it, this is the bottle I have in my drinking collection…
All-in-all, the tasting was a lot of fun–and very educational. I hope it will help you with your decision-making process the next time you see one or more of these whiskies on a retailer’s shelf.