The Cragganmore 12 was one of the first single malts that I drank and purchased a bottle of when I first started drinking single malt whiskies well over a decade ago. I liked it well enough then. But as my awareness of the category grew past easily available official bottlings to more and more obscure independent releases, I sort of lost track of it. The fact that the distillery is very rarely represented on independent bottlers’ lists probably didn’t help either. But this June, while in the Speyside, I made a brief visit to Cragganmore with my friend Daniel, and the few sips I had of the samples they gave us in the shop rekindled my interest. Especially as I realized that in the many years since I’d last tried it I’d more or less forgotten what the Cragganmore 12 was like: the malt I remembered was much more delicate than the one I tried (a similar thing happened for me with the Oban 14 not too long ago: another malt that I hadn’t tried since my early days in the hobby). I also rather liked the feel of the little distillery. Accordingly, on my return to Minnesota I purchased a bottle with a view towards renewing my acquaintance with the whisky more fully. Here are my notes from halfway down the bottle.
Cragganmore 12 (40%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Orange, copper coins, a leafy/papery note. With time there’s a cereal note and a faint, slightly phenolic rubberiness (think rubber gasket on an old medicine bottle). Even more of the softer cereal note with a drop of water.
Palate: Not much happening on the palate: that papery note, light malt and milky cocoa, plus an indistinct charred note. The texture is quite good for the low strength. With time that indistinct charred note just becomes an indistinct burnt note. No development beyond that. Water pushes the bitter/burnt edge back and brings out more of the malt.
Finish: Short-medium. The bitter notes are what mostly register. Still bitter here with water but some of that mild phenolic note from the nose now pushes through at the end.
Comments: The most interesting thing about the whisky on the whole is the texture at 40%, which I would guess is down to the use of worm tubs for condensation, resulting in a meatier spirit. The bitterness suggests the enthusiastic use of highly charred casks and caramel colouring. I liked the nose neat but didn’t find anything of interest on the palate and finish. A drop of water improved it on the whole, just about pulling it up to the “solid” tier.
Rating: 80 points.