Say what you will about Diageo, the giant monolithic overlord of scotch whisky, they understand that people want variety in their malts. Each of the distillery’s Classic Malts series includes a “Distiller’s Edition” bottling which is finished in interesting casks that complement each whisky’s house style. While slightly smaller producers like Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, and Springbank run circles around this practice (releasing multiple interesting finishes yearly), Diageo maintains that with its massive volume, only production runs consisting of at least hundreds of barrels are worth its time.
Speysider Cragganmore (see my review of the distillery’s 12 year-old bottling here), with a chocolatey/nutty house style, pairs perfectly with a sweet fruity ruby port finish in this yearly release. At around 13 years of age (this bottle was distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2005), only 300 casks per year are filled into emptied Sandeman’s Ruby port pipes – made of Spanish oak – to finish for 6-18 months. The result is like a chocolate cherry cordial, both sweet and nutty and now I’m making myself hungry…
Nose: Currants. Black licorice, wood notes, vanilla extract? Sticky sun-drying plums.
Palate: There’s the port! Acidic and winey. Red wine and balsamic vinegar. Juicy green grapes. Sweet like a chocolate cherry cordial.
Finish: Ripe muscat grapes, anise, and nutmeg. The finish is a bit dry… not so much of grape, but jam or tannin-y pressed grape skins.
Overall: Very interesting. You don’t see a port finish every day, and this one is certainly one to ponder. I wish it had been bottled at a bit higher than 40% ABV. It’s on the pricey side, but might be worth it if port finishes are your thing (see Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban for a cheaper alternative, although I’ve been told it’s too cloying). Certainly something worth trying.
Excellent review. You really captured the essence of this release (far better than I did). I love the detail: the brand of port that was the origin of the secondary finish barrels, the lengths of secondary maturation. Just a clinic in what a whiskey review ought to be.
Thanks Josh! I find that reviews are always much easier to write when the information is available. Far too often whiskies are released with tasting notes and nary a specification to be found – what type of barrel? For how long? I wish whisky companies in general (on both sides of the pond) would release the specs on a product that would really allow us to evaluate it on the basis of its components and the way it was made, rather than just having to guess at the factors that contribute to its nose, flavor, finish, etc.. I also know that when I’m reading a whisky review, I skim the tasting notes and focus on the facts about the product, and the overall opinion of the reviewer. Sometimes I wonder who really cares if I taste raspberry or strawberry or fig in a whisky… 😉
Well, Mark – I have to say – I do (i.e. care if you taste raspberry or fig). If it’s just a matter of knowing the shape of the still or the finishing barrel of a particular expression then manufacturer’s web sites and other information sources are fine. I’m looking for reviews I can trust from someone whose palate I can calibrate against my own by reading their reviews of whiskeys I know and love. Your blog delivers on this score.
Furthermore, you go the extra mile with the “About the Distillery” sections and the articles. You raise the bar in this area. I’m definitely going to try to live up to your example in my own whiskey writing and I’ve added scotchnoob.com to my blog roll.
Thanks Josh – added The Coopered Tot to my blogroll as well. Cheers!