With the Speyside Whisky Festival and the Feis Ile coming in quick succession, it’s been a very busy few weeks here at Whisky Rover and an expensive one. After the Feis Ile things tend to calm down with various local tasting events appearing on the calendar. It’s a period when I can begin to think about other distilleries to visit, what releases I may have overlooked and develop a few projects I have on the back burner.
This doesn’t mean the Spirit of Speyside Festival is a bygone memory, far from it in fact. I’ve always thought it’s a shame once the festival is done and dusted that the events calendar is taken offline. Whenever I’m planning visiting a future festival, a retrospective inquisition into previous events is always beneficial. At least the festival lives on through the various articles those who were fortunate enough to attend have produced.
Regular readers will recall my visit to Ballindalloch distillery. A marvellous and distinctive tour with a hands on approach, it’s an experience I can heartedly recommend to anyone with an interest in whisky. For our own particular tour once we had reached the final outpost of the lavishly decorated tasting rooms, it was finally time to experience some whisky. As explained the owners have an existing arrangement with Diageo’s nearby Cragganmore distillery so they have built up an formidable arsenal of private casks. This fills in the current gap as Ballindalloch’s whisky won’t be ready for several years yet.
These whiskies shed new light on Cragganmore, given the satisfying sounds ushered around me, as I sat nosing the whiskies I’m finally about to taste. Cragganmore is capable of producing some exceptionally fine whiskies given some of the independent releases I have experienced over the years. I also have the bonus inclusion of the Ballindalloch new make spirit to consider. Funnily enough it was around the time the first whisky was poured that Charles MacLean suddenly appeared in the room before moving on. I guess he can smell a decent whisky from quite a distance away…
Being the group driver for Speyside meant I may have missed out on tasting these whiskies in such fine surroundings and my own home cannot compare. Although I do have a couple examples of Wemyss Ware in this comfortable setting and a comfortable chair. Time to stick some vinyl on the deck and take in some fine and luxurious Cragganmore.
Ballindalloch new make spirit
Colour: no point here
On the nose: I’m taken with those dried banana chips and caramel. Some thyme and stewed apples with pears. Fox’s Glacier mints and a little bit of menthol. Wine gums, milk chocolate and liquorice.
In the mouth: juicy summer meadow fruits i.e. apples and pears. White pepper, icing sugar and more liquorice. Some oats and chewy meringues.
Very well balanced and playful. A very promising new make that is ready to drink right now. Upholds the promise of the distillery itself.
Cragganmore Private Cask 1
distilled in 1986 and bottled at 27 years old, refill bourbon cask, 53.1% vol
On the nose: almonds and pralines with tons of vanilla. Fresh herbs although I’m struggling to pinpoint exactly perhaps mixed? Peanuts, coconut and a fresh cream aspect with sunflower oil and honey. Ending with black pepper.
In the mouth: some bitterness from the wood, which I find enjoyable. Grapefruit and vanilla, some butter with a floral and ginger note.
The nose is the best aspect here and it is a delicate, very easy drinking Cragganmore.
Cragganmore Private Cask 2
distilled 1985 and bottled at 28 years old, refill bourbon cask, 42.6% vol
On the nose: olive oil, Victoria Sponge with plenty of fresh cream, melon, a stone chalky pebble aspect, hazelnuts and more creamy but with fudge.
In the mouth: no bitterness like the first cask but is it remarkable how similar in age these are but polar opposites. Vanilla, pineapple, crackers, a little yeast and more malty.
A solid example with a little more spice and wood going on.
Cragganmore Private Cask 3
distilled 1984 and bottled at 29 years old, 1st fill sherry butt, 43.2% vol
Colour: builders tea
On the nose: dark chocolate and mint a gorgeous combination. A rum and raisin aspect with fudge and maple syrup sweetness. A rich caramel, vanilla pod, cinnamon and peppermint tea.
In the mouth: a mellow fellow for a 1st fill! Ginger, dark chocolate and leathery tones. Treacle, pink peppercorn, popcorn, toast and more black tea taking us full circle.
Yes its my favourite of the trio. Not a sherry monster which is very pleasing. A real sense of harmony and an epic journey of discovery – if only I had a cask like this under my stairs!
A lavish and entertaining way to end our Ballindalloch tour in fine company and luxurious surroundings. If you have the opportunity to visit the distillery whilst on Speyside then its highly recommended.