Though blended scotch whisky, composed of a mix of Scottish single malts and grain whiskies, is still the largest selling Scotch – a whopping 90% of the category – the demand and popularity of single malts has grown significantly in the past number of years. Thus, we have been able to see more expressions from distilleries which have typically been focused on creating blends – like Kininvie, Aultmore, Mortlach, and Craigellachie. In some cases, these whiskies are crafted for blends, thus having particular characteristics that may not be as “complete” in and of themselves as single malts – but they are, nonetheless, often quite good and different.
Dewar’s recently launched a number of releases from distilleries which they have called “the Last Great Malts” – Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Aultmore, Aberfeldy, and Glen Deveron (Macduff) – brands to which there hasn’t been great access in the general market. Craigellachie touts its use of worm tubs, which is the traditional method of condensation in distillation – essentially long tubes that “worm” their way through cool water which allows the alcohol vapour to condense on the cool sides of the pipe which is sometimes said to give an enhanced richness to the spirit. The bottling itself is non chill-filtered, and it looks like there is no addition of caramel for colouring.
Nose: Quite sharp, and a bit abrasive and dusty. There is some dried fruits and bright malt notes creating quite a broad, rich, and dry background. Ever so lightly vegetal and earthy too – as you might guess, quite unique. A bit peppery and a little harsh, but this doesn’t detract much for me – largely because it is set against the uniqueness of everything else. Interesting. 25.5/30 (85%)
Taste: Barley with some of its earthiness coming in, lightly warming, before finishing in a bit of peat where the earthiness of the barley also comes into play. It’s still lightly dusty and sharp – which might lead one to forget all about the background flavours – the vanilla, dried fruits, and grain itself. 26/30 (87%)
Finish: Lightly peppery, with some cinnamon spicy feel, malt, sulphur, and earthiness. It’s quite full in length and flavour. Barley and malt last out the rest of the flavours. 17.5/20 (88%)
Conclusion: This is a fun malt – and a bit “rough”, but it’s still well balanced and interesting despite that. As much as I don’t like the word, it’s likely not one people might call “smooth” – which doesn’t mean it isn’t good. A very interesting way to increase exposure to the breadth of single malts, this one. Frankly, I think they’ve done a great job creating (or, perhaps, releasing) something interesting and different – and it’s nice to see one of the classic bases for blended whiskies in its raw form. I think if I am in a brooding mood, this would be my dram. 18/20 (90%)