This is the first in a series of six reviews.
Since 1996, several of Diageo’s Scotch distilleries have offered limited Distiller’s Edition (DE) whiskies. The idea behind the DE program is to take a distillery’s fully-matured core expression and transfer it to a second, fortified wine cask for a month to impart additional characteristics.
Some purists dislike the idea of barrel finishing, believing the purpose is to hide defects of inferior whiskies. While that can happen, in the case of the annual DE program, the core expressions are already tried and true releases.
Another aspect is to keep these whiskies affordable, which many other brands often overlook with their limited editions, purposefully or not.
The distilleries involved are what Diageo refers to as The Six Classic Malts and are comprised of Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban, and Talisker. Each takes part in the DE program. Today, we’ll explore the 2023 Cragganmore Distiller’s Edition.
“Cragganmore takes its rock face of a name from the mountain in whose shadow its distillery sits. And this is a whisky with many high approaches and hidden valleys of flavour. Known as the most complex aroma on Speyside, it must also be one of the most delightful because the distillery can’t keep up with demand.” - Diageo
Cragganmore was established in 1869 by John Smith, son of George Smith, who founded The Glenlivet. John had worked at his father’s distillery as well as at Macallan and Glenfarclas. Cragganmore has the distinction of being the first to transport its whiskies by railroad. The distillery draws water from the Craggan Burn by Ballindollach. It is a Speyside distillery and uses lightly-peated barley to create its distillate.
Cragganmore’s core expression is aged 12 years in former Bourbon barrels. The DE utilizes re-charred, Port-seasoned casks. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°) and carries a suggested retail price of $85.00.
I’m about to #DrinkCurious, but before I do, I must thank Diageo for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.
Appearance: I poured this Scotch into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. The copper-colored liquid formed a medium rim on the wall, releasing widely-spaced, thick, sticky tears.
Nose: The aroma smelled of honeysuckle, rose petals, melon, green grapes, and pear. Drawing the air through my lips was reminiscent of honey and apple.
Palate: The medium-heavy texture coated every nook and cranny of my mouth. Brown sugar, vanilla, and sweet apple flavors were on the front of my palate, whereas the middle featured chocolate, plum, and caramel. The back revealed smoky oak, nutmeg, and cocoa.
Finish: Medium-to-long in duration, the ingredients of the finish included cocoa, nutmeg, smoked vanilla, and caramel.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Despite being 40% ABV, the 2023 Cragganmore DE is a potent pour. There’s nothing you’d mistake as “watered down” and, instead, is full of character. It even gave my hard palate a light sizzle. The peat is gentle and unmistakable but doesn’t even approach overwhelming. It would be a tremendous toe-dipping opportunity for those who are peat-curious. The more seasoned Scotch enthusiast will find this Speyside malt intriguing.
I found myself refilling my glass a few times, both in an attempt to dig deeper and because I was enjoying the heck out of it. I believe it is reasonably priced and am happy to have this in my whisky library. It earns every iota of my Bottle rating. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.
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