Cragganmore Distillery Tour


As some of you may know I am recently back from my adventures up in Speyside – you can read all about it here in my Speyside Road Trip – where I visited several distilleries, amongst those distilleries visited was the Cragganmore Distillery. There are a few reasons that I decided to visit this distillery while up in Speyside, the main reason though is that the Cragganmore 12yo is one of the first malt whiskies that I ever tried when I was just starting out on my whisky adventure, and I immediately fell in love with it. Since then this malt has always had a spot on my shelf and I always enjoy going back to have a wee try of it. I couldn’t go all that way and not visit a distillery so close to my heart!

Cragganmore distillery is located on the Ballindalloch estate in Speyside, just along the road from Tormore, and opposite from the newly built Ballindalloch estate distillery. Built here in 1869 it was only made possible by the opening of the Strathspey railway line some six years earlier. Cragganmore is one of the few distilleries to boast flat topped stills, an unusual feature which will likely increase the amount of reflux during distillation, though any lightness this many impart onto the spirits character would be counteracted by the use of worm tubs for condensing. Now owned by Diageo this malt is one of their ‘Classic Malts’ range, and it is a superb style of whisky they produce.

My partner and I arrived just in time for our tour, we had booked onto the 12 o’clock tour and were running slightly late no thanks to the dualling of the A9, and burst through the door literally 3 minutes before our tour was supposed to go out. Once we had caught our breath from the rush from the carpark and everyone was assembled it was time to start our tour. We had booked onto the expressions tour, this option allows you to try some extra whiskies from the distillery, which is definitely worth the extra money as the tasting was excellent.

Our tour Guide for the day was Rebecca, who unfortunately told us that we were not allowed to take pictures while in the production areas – if I can find any picture I will put them in to break up the writing a bit – and gave us the usual spiel about health and safety and all the rest. Our tour started in what was the old malting barn, now it is just taken up by several giant wooden malt hoppers, which make for a rather cramped space; it felt like we were all crammed into a small hallway. Swiftly moving on from here we were taken to see their mill, like so many distilleries they have a Porteus mill, those wonders of engineering that just keep going. Our tour guide obviously knew their stuff but the tour did feel very scripted and lacked some of the personality and humour that you get with others, to be honest though I was more interested in just seeing the production areas than anything else.


The mash tun at Cragganmore is a thing of sheers beauty. They have a wooden clad mash tun, with a highly sheened copper canopy over it which looks absolutely stunning. It is from the mashing that you are also able to see their worm tubs. Another unusual feature at this distillery, other than the fact that they still use worm tubs, is that they have rectangular worms, which I don’t believe any other distillery has, I highly doubt this would alter the taste any but I just thought it was quite interesting. From here we were shown through the fermentation and the distillation. The stills were of a very nice shape. The wash stills were of a flowing lamp-glass shape, while the much smaller spirit stills with their flat tops also include boil-balls. From here we were taken for a fleeting stop in the warehouse, where all output that will be bottled as a malt is stored – the vast majority is matured elsewhere for blending – before we were taken to a gorgeous tasting room for our samples.



We were going to get to try 3 expressions of the Cragganmore. They were as follows.

Cragganmore 12yo – the ‘classic malts’ bottling, which I will no doubt review in the near future as it such an enjoyable dram.

Cragganmore 2016 distiller’s edition – this was a very interesting bottling of Cragganmore. This edition was matured first in sherry casks, then for a secondary period in bourbon barrels before then being finished in sherry. Bottled at 48% it is limited to 1,800 bottles.

1999 Single Cask Cragganmore – this whisky is fantastic!!! Seeing as how it’s never going to get bottled you have to get yourself up to Cragganmore to try this. Filled in 1999 and bottled at the start of this year it is a 16yo Cragganmore matured in a refill barrel and presented at 53%ABV. Seeing as how I would never get to try this whisky again I decided to take my time and took the following notes:

Nose – rich toffee, vanilla and coconut, a big sulphury-malt character and a slight whiff of smoke. Sweet tannins and a little lemon rind.

Palate – huge sweet arrival with honey, toasted bread, orange peel and again bitter lemon rind. Tannic woody drying, leather and pepper.

Finish – the finish continues on from the palate with lots of sweetness and leather but it is a bit fruitier and bitterer.

After our tasting was finished and we had had a wander around the study room we then thanked Rebecca for the tour and headed back to the car for the next part in our Speyside Road Trip, a stop at Glenfarclas!





Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tasting -October 2016 Outrun


I recently attended another Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) night, a highlight of my whisky calendar, and enjoyed it so much I thought I would do a wee write up of it and share it with you all. The Society nights include a tasting of five of the latest SMWS outrun, as well as a one course meal. The outrun that we were tasting from was the October outrun – the most recent outrun at the time of writing this – which is now available from the SMWS website.

As I have previously discussed on the blog the SMWS use coding’s for bottles instead of putting distillery names etc. on the bottle, this is fully explained here.

All of the drams that we tried on this night were cask strength, as always with the Society, most of which were over 60%ABV, so as you can imagine we were thankful for the meal in-between. Here is a list of all of the cracking drams we tried that night, as well as the notes that I got from them off the cuff, I would have liked to sit down with each of them and analyse them a bit more in-depth, but there were more drams to be had, and I couldn’t say no to them! At the Society’s tastings they give you the panels tasting notes, I always refrain from reading these until after I’ve had a go at the whisky as it stops your nose from being guided towards certain aromas etc. I always like comparing my notes to the panels after I have tried them also.

Dram number one for the night was from the Dailuaine distillery and it was a real treat!

Cask No. 41.82 – Dailuaine
Bottle Name Lively & Entertaining
Age 11yo
Cask Type 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 60.1% ABV.
Number of Bottles 192
Tasting Notes Constantly changing aromas; candied ginger, lemon and honey sponge cake, sour apple sherbet as well as aniseed and ginger thrown in for good measure – this one just would not sit still! So we took a sip – what a surprise; spicy chocolate-dipped pineapple with sea salt as well as sour cherry and black pepper ice cream – we certainly did not get bored with this one. Water calmed it down – well, a little – slightly smoky white peppered strawberries with a balsamic vinaigrette on the nose and milk chocolate with zingy coconut lime and sea salt in the finish.

Wow, this whisky has a fantastic nose. It is very sweet and very exciting. The big note that came forth for me was coconut ice-cream, I’ve never had a tasting note stand out so prominently for me before. With time, and trying to divert myself from the ice-cream, there was also crème brulee, rich milk chocolate, white pepper and golden syrup. And an odd note almost like sun tan lotion. With water more fruit came forth with green apples, lemon rind and rhubarb and custard sweets. A cracking start to the evening!

The second dram of the evening was a 13yo Aultmore matured in a Refill Hogshead. I’ve had Aultmores in the past; it is a very delicate and subtle whisky, and this was no exception to that rule.

Cask No. 73.77 – Aultmore
Bottle Name Back in a Briary Bower
Age 13yo
Cask Type Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 60.6% ABV.
Number of Bottles 288
Tasting Notes The nose starts with a fleeting lemon and lime freshness, before shifting to subtle floral notes, eventually settling to tempting honey and crème anglaise sweetness. The palate synthesises all those elements impressively and the sweetness has a lovely sharpness to balance it – dry pear, flower stems, candied orange and lemon slices and tinned mandarins – with a teasingly tannic, tongue-tingling finish (leather, wood and sugar-coated fennel-seed Mukhwas). The reduced nose has sylvan floral echoes of briary, dog-rose bowers, Florentines, sherbet lemons and chocolate-coated nuts. The palate now combines lemon and ginger tea with toffee and chocolate – as balanced as a Bach masterpiece.

I’ve tried several Aultmores before and it is a delicate and subtle whisky. This single cask bottling has all of these same hallmarks. Initially there is a slight whiff of citrus zest, possibly lime, then after this it is dominated by loads of grassy/hay and herbal notes. With time notes of honey and damp saw dust come through as well as honey dew melon and bitter lemon rind. With time in the glass this dram became quite biscuity and almost meaty.

The colour on our third whisky of the evening was immense; I was a glorious deep amber colour. It turned out to be a Glen Moray matured for 10 years in a first fill Moscatel Hogshead.

Cask No. 35.150 – Glen Moray
Bottle Name Corn N’ Oil
Age 10yo
Cask Type 1st Fill Moscatel Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 60.8% ABV.
Number of Bottles 276
Tasting Notes Looking at the colour we prepared ourselves for a surprise and what a surprise we got! Creosote treated wood fence, burnt molasses candy, spicy sweetened chestnut puree and Tortuga Caribbean rum cake. On the palate neat, it was a tannic, oaky, spicy and sweet attack on the taste buds but all in perfect balance. A drop of water and we found ourselves on a pirate ship with warning shots being fired at the enemy , ‘Surrender or die’ – they surrendered and we celebrated drinking Corn N ’Oil, very dark, oil-like blackstrap rum mixed with a sweet spicy syrup called Falernum.

Well. This whisky is…different, it’s not like anything I have ever had before. The nose is simply fantastic. There is meaty, winey tannins upfront on the nose with a big toffee/burnt caramel note. Lots of woody ginger and dried cashew nuts. The palate was a bit of a let-down after the nose, it was incredibly mouth drawing and very drying and tasted pretty sulphury and metallic. With water it was hugely improved however with rich Manuka honey, more burnt caramel and red wine coming through.

The penultimate dram of the evening was a very old bottling of Linkwood, 26yo, from a Refill Hogshead. This was my first ever Linkwood and I really enjoyed it.

Cask No. 39.135 – Linkwood
Bottle Name Magical & Heavenly
Age 26yo
Cask Type Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Alcoholic Strength 58.8% ABV.
Number of Bottles 186
Tasting Notes We loved the nose – calling it ‘special’ and ‘magical’ – exotic fruits (juicy pineapple, mango, melon, dried cherries) rubbed shoulders with brandy snaps and chocolate-drizzled Pavlova – plus cigar boxes and pipe racks. The neat palate had more attack – tongue-tingling leather, tobacco and spice – but dark chocolate, manuka honey and dried pineapple and papaya made it easy to forgive. The reduced nose continued the dream – tropical trail mix, mejool dates and bougainvillea by a holiday hotel pool. The palate, with just a touch of water, was totally rehabilitated – cherries in chocolate, mango, sugary coffee dregs, polished wood and spices – rather heavenly, actually.

Wow, what a nose! Candy floss, dried papaya, pineapple backed up with a good amount of sweetness. I would never have guessed that it was a 26yo whisky, the cask has been used a good few times before this fill if its 26yo! It’s sweet, fruity, buttery and really well balanced. With time it begins to show it’s age with more leather, tannins and wood spice. This whisky is just very buttery an oily feeling, especially on the palate; buttery short bread, buttery popcorn, butter, butter, butter. It’s literally like silky and sweet melted butter.

The last dram, as always with any SMWS tasting, gets a bit peaty. Our peat monster for this evening was an 8yo Bunnahabhain, the details are below.

Cask No. 10.98 – Bunnahabhain (Peated)
Bottle Name Super Smoky Firestarter
Age 8yo
Cask Type 2nd Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 60.4% ABV.
Number of Bottles 168
Tasting Notes This is a young Firestarter of a dram! The initial nose was super smoky, sweet and salty. Delicate bourbon notes managed to shine through despite the intensity of the smoke. There was also a curious mix of smoked fish, white chocolate and ash. The taste was that of a coastal bonfire, those who gathered around enjoyed smoked monkey nuts and tuna nori rolls. Water lit a barbecue, fuelled by charcoal and hickory and very occasionally smattered with sea spray. On the palate the sweetness had really intensified and we found flavours of smoked apple, ham hock and heavy, thick, grey smoke.

Initially on the nose there are strong notes of fishy, coastal, salty peat. On the palate it is really vegetal, bitter vegetation like daffodils and dandelions, mixed in with a heavy, thick smoke. It is a spirit driven whisky, it’s meaty, and malty and has a sulphury tang to it. There is a light crème anglaise on the nose from the cask but little but smoke and spirit character is getting through. It is a sweet, savoury and smoky delight.

Well. There we have it, a write up of another fantastic whisky fuelled night. I always find it interesting comparing my notes to those of the panel after a tasting, and seeing how close or far away I was. And seeing how outrageous some the panels notes are. A personal favourite note of this tasting was on bottle 35.150 ‘A drop of water and we found ourselves on a pirate ship with warning shots being fired at the enemy’ I know just what they mean…

The highlights for me were probably the first and third whiskies, 41.82 (the 11yo Dailuaine) and 35.150 (the 10yo Glen Moray). The Fourth whisky, 39.135 (Linkwood) – Magical & Heavenly, was just that, it was a great great whisky; I just couldn’t justify the price for it. In the end I treated myself to an early Christmas present getting a bottle of the Dailuaine and the Glen Moray which I will be reviewing in the future as they are such interesting whiskies.


Thank you to Jim Coleman – the SMWS ambassador hosting the evening- and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for yet another excellent evening and I look forward to the next.



Tormore 15yo – Chivas Cask Strength Edition


For this next review I will be looking at a whisky I have never tried before, and most people have never tried or heard of, as there have been very few bottlings from this distillery indeed. It is a Speyside distillery and like so many of them most of its output is blended into obscurity, with it only being bottled as special releases, there was a 14yo released a few years ago but it is still a rarity to find this malt. The whisky we will be trying today comes from the beautiful Tormore distillery, and is one of Chivas’ Cask Strength Edition releases.


Tormore distillery was built in 1958, and was one of the several that were built at this time in order to quench the whisky boom which occurred post World War 2. It is a most beautiful distillery, designed by Sir Albert Richardson, and is commonly known as the ‘Pearl of Speyside’. As I said this whisky is rarely put into a bottle as a malt, and what is is of very limited release, which is surprising as the distillery has an annual output of around 4.4 million litres – most of the output being pumped into producing the Long John blend – the likely reason for this is that the light and floral style of Tormore makes it very popular with blenders and so it is held in high demand. The sample that I have, given to me by a friend, is from batch TM 15 001 i.e. the first batch of Tormore 15yo. Distilled on the 20th of July 1998 and bottled on the 19th of June 2014 – so just a bit shy of being 16 – it is presented at a very respectable 57.4% ABV and is natural colour and Unchillfiltered. There is no cask information given on the bottle, and my research found nothing, but I would have to guess because of the style of the dram that it has certainly been matured in refill casks, most likely Hogsheads. Anyway, introductions aside, let’s get down to the good bit.


This is a very very interesting whisky; it is so light on the nose even being at cask strength. The aromas that come through at first are very soft and subtle, making for an interesting bouquet. There are a lot of soft fruits on the nose here, as my friend Jonathan said when he gave me this sample this whisky is just full of gooseberries, and I have to say I whole heartedly agree with him. This dram reminds me a lot of when I was younger – well before my whisky days – when I would go with my parents and siblings down to the river to pick plums. Where I live there are lots of wild yellow plum trees, and each summer we would go and pick them and we would make them into jam, this whisky smells exactly like that to me, yellow plum jam, and it is absolutely fantastic. There are also fresh apricots and a subtle caramel/white chocolate sweetness, kind of like a Caramac bar. Fresh acidity from the casks almost like pine needles, light malt, fresh almonds and coconut water. With time in the glass more flavours begin to come through, soft vanilla fudge, crisp red apples and raspberries. There is also a sort of peat-like smell, not burning smoky peat though; it’s more like damp, wet, vegetal peat right at the back of the nose.


The palate is very rich and sweet, far more intense than on the nose. Again that yellow plum jam is coming on strongly for me. There is a lot more citrus fruits coming through now with grapefruit and sweet clementine’s. There is a lot of spice on the palate too, hot km pepper spice coming forth with drying nutmeg and a slight hint of creamy vanilla custard. And a good dose of alcohol as you would expect being at cask strength. I wasn’t sure about adding water to this as it is so light in character but I opted to give it a go in the end, and I think it was for the good, if anything I think it’s made it more prominent on the palate. Through the development and almost smoke like note develops, I think probably from cask charring as I don’t believe they use peat at Tormore, though it is not a hugely prominent smokiness.


The finish is fairly long, I’d say medium in length but it is fairly nondescript, it’s just warming alcohol and woodiness. It’s full of drying wood, with big tannic notes, nutmeg and again vanilla, this time more like dried vanilla pods, and notes of sweet malt.

Well, there we have it folks. Another whisky, another review written, I must say that I am pretty sad that I only have a small sample of this and not a bottle as this whisky is such a delight. It definitely won’t be to everyone’s palate; if you like your big heavy melt-your-face-off peated drams then I doubt this will be to your taste. This is a light, floral and extremely elegant whisky which has a lot of character to it, you just have to go and find it as it is quite a subtle dram. You can still get a bottle of this, I’ve seen it on Master of Malt for around £50 – as a 50cl bottle – but being a batch bottling the numbers will be limited, I would certainly have to recommend this dram to those who don’t like the big smoky whiskies and prefer those of a softer style. This dram just screams of subtle delicacy and elegant beauty and it is a really nice drinking whisky. Thank you so much to Jonathan or the sample!