Craigellachie Distillery is situated near the picturesque village of Aberlour, in the heart of the Speyside region of Scotland. Some would say it is the Rock of Speyside, given where it is situated. It has a long history in the art of distilling having opened in 1891 and is currently owned by Dewar’s.
As one of mine and my wife’s favourite whiskies, and whisky ranges, I was always going to be excited about reviewing the full range of products, as well as visiting the distillery (although the write up of that will come in a few weeks once I’ve been…).
The range covers a vast palette of flavour, from meaty to spicy and always with an undertone of the signature Speyside robustness you’d expect from a distillery using worm tubs instead of condensers for cooling – sulphur notes, thick palettes and absolute brilliance.
From the delectable and wise-beyond-its-years 13 Year Old, to the refined and malt laden 23 Year Old, the four core Craigellachie releases certainly offer a breadth of flavour. Oh, and did I mention the 31 Year Old? Currently the World’s Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky? Yeah, that too.
The 13 Year Old is summed up on the Craigellachie website as “Flames. Flared light. Fireworks”. The dullness of the smoke is lit up by the fruity sweetness and the satisfying burn of the finish.
But beginning in the right place, the nose that is, the senses are set ablaze with a sulphuric smokiness that sparks alongside a tangy apple sweetness. On the palette this is developed and it tastes like a whole fruit bowl has been dissolved in the malty liquid.
From ripe grapes to thick banana peels, this is an exploration into your five-a-day. Although it might not be best to replace actual fruit with Whisky… breakfast dram anyone?
While the typical Speyside sweetness is present throughout the entire Craigellachie range, the lightness associated with the region is not. Well not in the 13 anyway. This is a full-bodied expression that packs a good fruity punch with a subtle smoke in the background.
The next dram to be explored is the pale blue Craigellachie 17 Year Old. This expression shares the characteristic Speyside sweetness with the 13 Year Old, only this time an even slighter hint of smoke.
The sweetness also takes on a more saccharine flavour, with brown sugar and caramel apples in the nose. This is expanded in the mouth and is contrasted with the tang of citrus fruits. Caramelised orange peel and limes dripping in golden syrup. This is also a full bodied expression, with the sugary thickness of honey coming through in the mouth feel.
There is the slightest hint of spice, a delicate cinnamon note that serves to blow up those mouth watering sugary overtones; a symphony of flavour, with all the crucial notes coming together in perfect harmony. The linger of the finish doesn’t last too long, but just enough to taste that caramel again and the slightest hint of lemon and lime citrus notes.
Our penultimate stop on the Craigellachie malt tour is the 23 Year Old.
Just so you know, this is my wife’s favourite whisky of all time, so much so that the last time I had a bottle in I had to hide it in the tube of a Craigellachie 13 to stop her dramming a little too often on it!
This warming dram starts with a nose of oily fruits and peppery spices. Deep dark fruits, heavy sherry influence and dominance. The palette allows the flavours to be fully explored. Sweet pineapple and a nutty spice come through, alongside sweet hazelnuts and oak wood.
The sweetness develops into a spicy vanilla with a tiny hint of wood fire. The oak of the barrels really sticks out at this stage, making for an exciting journey of Craigellachie through taste.
The mouth feel is succulently creamy and thick, blending well with the caramel sweetness and fruity tang. The delicate smokiness lasts into the finish and the spices become more pronounced, rounding off a fantastic malt.
Finally, we have the World’s Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky; The Craigellachie 31 Year Old travel retail exclusive.
I’m feeling insanely fortunate just to be able to try this whisky; I almost bought a bottle last year whilst travelling through duty free from Heathrow T5 to Italy, but alas I got distracted and neglected to buy the thing so now I’m finally tucking in to its brilliance.
Oh hi. The nose is bonkers; meatier than the 23, a carnivore’s dream, with alluring sulphur notes, exotic notes of pineapple juices, wafts of vanilla and dreamy buttermilk with tonnes of spices rounded with a multi-layered herbaceous character I could not help but spend a lot of time with.
Once sipped, those spices – namely white pepper, cinnamon and hints of cayenne pepper – come alive, as does the beauty and thickness of the Craigellachie 31 Year Old’s character; soft, yet bold, alive, yet smooth, meaty, yet vegetarian (obviously), there is a lovely flavour duality at play here. And the elongated finish is just stunning.
The Craigellachie range is an adventure in all your favourite flavours. They traverse the plains of taste, covering sweetness, spiciness and subtle smoky highlights, and always with their own take on a Speyside, as the packaging says; ‘Old Fashioned in 1891’, yet thoroughly enjoyed today.
My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.