Croftengea 15, 2002 (SMWS 122.21)

Allah be praised: it’s not another Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary release! No, it’s not. In fact this whisky has nothing to do with the Laing family. This is a 15 yo Croftengea released last year by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Because they are whimsical they gave it the name “Words from Random Phrase Generator”; or maybe it was “What’s cooking?” One or the other.

I got in on this bottle split because a Croftengea came out of nowhere to be one of my very favourite whiskies of 2018 (this one bottled by The Whisky Exchange). I therefore resolved to try as many Croftengeas as I possibly can, leading to this and also the purchase of a full bottle of a Croftengea 13 bottled for….wait for it, wait for it…the 20th Anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line! That’ll be next month; this is now.

Apparently this started out in a bourbon barrel for four years and was then transferred to a second-fill sherry cask.

Croftengea 15, 2002 (56.8%; SMWS 122.21; 2nd fill sherry cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild phenolic peat to start with meaty notes (cured ham, charred pork) and orange peel below. The peat begins to intensify almost immediately and there’s an organic, mossy quality to it that reminds me of the Lagavulin 16 from more than a decade ago. The pork gets porkier as well. Gets earthier as it sits. With a lot more time the fruit begins to emerge on the nose (charred melon). With a bit of water there’s some vanilla and the peat gets pushed back.

Palate: The savoury notes are on top here but the smoke begins to emerge as I swallow. Oily texture at full strength and it’s very approachable. More peppery and salty on the second sip. As it sits there’s more and more citrus (kaffir lime peel). Okay, let’s see what water does. Well, it makes it creamier but not more interesting.

Finish: Long. The smoke lingers and some muskier fruit pops out at the end. The fruit emerges earlier as it sits and it gets saltier here too (a bit too salty if you ask me). As on the palate with water.

Comments: This is really very good with a nice progression from the nose to the palate to the finish. I would have liked it more if the fruit had appeared sooner and with more intensity; I suspect a full-term bourbon maturation would have emphasized it. Still, this is very good as it is and makes me think that I really do need to explore Croftengea further. I preferred this one neat.

Rating: 88 points.

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