Distiller: Craigellachie. Region: Speyside. ABV: 52.2%. Age: 31 years. Price: $800-1,000+
Hot damn. The Craigellachie 31 is in pretty rarefied territory. As Axis readers know, I’ve tried–and hugely enjoyed–every other distillery bottling: the 13 (one of the best buys in stores), the 17 (a welcome step up), the 19 (one of my favorites of 2016, sadly Duty Free-only), and the 23 (challengingly sulphuric, and damn pricey).
The 31, though, I doubted I’d get to try–at least any time soon. But there it was on offer at the end of the brilliant Dewars single malt dinner at Ink LA recently. I took full advantage.
Craigellachie is not for beginners, and they’re proud of it. The 31 is intense. Many other distillers release their oldest malts watered down, but this bottling is 52.2% ABV. It starts with a massive leathery note on the nose the younger Craigellachies don’t have. Dense strawberry and pineapple. Peppery vanilla bean. A little water, and the dram bursts open.
The palate explodes with spice-infused fruit: cinnamon, dried ginger, nutmeg. Bitter chocolate truffles. That characteristic Craigellachie meatiness. Toasted almonds. Old leather-bound library volumes. White smoke. Constant evolution in the glass, and a finish that goes on forever.
One of the more extraordinary drams I’ve tasted. The jury of Whisky Magazine’s World Whisky Awards seems to agree: they named the Craigellachie 31 the best single malt in the world for 2017.
Here’s to the grails, whether we’re drinking them or dreaming of them. Slàinte, friends! – BO
Distiller: Craigellachie. ABV: 46%. Age: 19 years. Region: Speyside. Price: $135.
Hot damn, that’s a good-looking bottle.
Our look at John Dewar & Sons’ Last Great Malts line continues (see the Royal Brackla 12 review as well) with a Duty Free-only release from Craigellachie, whose more common 13-year-old release is one of my favorite daily drinkers.
This 19-year-old release is bottled at 46%, and it’s more enigmatic than its little brother. Takes some time to come together. But for me, it sure does.
Nose: smoked honeycomb. White chocolate. Some sweet organic life–wet leaves?–and pink grapefruit. Palate: a little wild, a little sulphuric. This ain’t a beginner’s whisky. Juicy malt. Nice mouthfeel. Then that grapefruit again, grilled and salted like a starter at a hipster foodie brunch. Finish: white smoke and vanilla Torrone candy.
A bit of an oddball, this one, but lovable as hell. Cheers, friends! – BO
Buy Craigellachie online at Mash + Grape
Distiller: Craigellachie. Region: Speyside. 46% ABV. Age: 13 years. Price: $55-60.
A favorite dram of 2015 that tastes just as good in the New Year. From the heart of Speyside, Craigellachie is one of the few single malts distilled with a worm tub condenser, giving an extra weight and density to the spirit. Long a staple of blends, it’s only recently available in single malt form, as part of John Dewar & Sons’ Last Great Malts lineup. (Royal Brackla, Aberfeldy, Autmore, and The Deveron round out the lineup.)
Coppery, buttery, and dried apple notes on the nose. Recalls Redbreast in a very nice way. With time, more malt, bourbon-barrel, and hints of cocoa. Burst of spice on the palate. Shortbread biscuits, a little Chardonnay wineyness. Waxy and viscous on the palate, but with a sense of clarity through it all. Lingering spicy finish with a hint of white smoke.
It’s not the kind of dram that knocks you out the way an A’Bunadh or Uigeadail does, but it’s consistently satisfying–and it lingers in your mind hours later the way a great melody does. And each time you revisit it, it offers more nuance.
It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Speysides. Check out our thoughts on the 19-year-old version, and stay tuned for a writeup on the 23-year-old too. Sláinte, friends! – BO
Buy Craigellachie 13 online at Mash + Grape