There’s an official Craigellachie 13; this isn’t it. This is a 13 yo single sherry cask bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. The cask in question was a hogshead which means even more wood contact (and the colour would seem to corroborate this). And the abv is an eye-watering 60.5%.
If someone tries to tell you that Craigellachie makes sherried malt in the style of Macallan or Glenfarclas or Glendronach, you might check to see if they’re trying to sell you something. While individual casks might tend in the softer direction of those classic Speyside distilleries (which, of course, command good prices—probably the reason someone trying to sell you on the idea might bring their names up), Craigellachie has traditionally produced a meatier, earthier style of sherried whisky. The better comparison is to Mortlach. Such, for example, was this 20 yo, also bottled by Malts of Scotland, and this 18 yo bottled under the Hepburn’s Choice label for K&L. And such is this 13 yo—I opened the bottle for one of my local group’s tastings and drank it down pretty fast.
Craigellachie 13, 2002 (60.5%; Malts of Scotland; sherry hogshead MoS cask #16007; from my own bottle)
Nose: Starts out with dirty, sulphurous sherry. After a few minutes of airing the sulphur begins to recede and sweeter, richer fruit begins to emerge: cherries, orange peel, apricot, stewed prunes. An organic funk still hangs over the whole (rotting leaves, manure). Water pushes the organic funk back and pulls out sweeter notes (an assortment of berries). After a while it gets quite salty here too.
Palate: Comes in real hot but also sweet. Not as much sulphur here (no sharpness at any rate). The fruit is more pronounced on the second sip and after a bit of air there’s some milk chocolate on the third sip but this needs water and a fair bit of it. Ah yes, with water it becomes more approachable on the whole and the citrus is emphasized; the salt from the finish shows up earlier.
Finish: Long. Gets quite salty as it goes. Still salty with water but the cocoa hangs out longer too now and the fruit emerges again at the end.
Comments: This stayed pretty consistent from the top of the bottle to the end. A big bruiser of a malt, it doesn’t offer many subtle pleasures but isn’t a one-note sherry monster either. And it needs water to reveal its qualities fully.
Rating: 87 points.
Your warning about suspect sales pitches from “someone” in paragraph 2 is delicious.
I read his piece about whisky geeks and nerds yesterday and decided I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I’m sensitive that way.
Since Craigellachie is made to be a sulfurous spirit how can you tell if what you are tasting is sulfur from fermenting/distillation or from the cask? I have had a Craigellachie from a bourbon casks that was immensely sulfured but in a gunpowder or cashed pipe sort of way.