Craigellachie 13-Year-Old Review

Craigellachie 13-Year-Old, 46% ABV, Price £45

 
 100% American Oak Ex-Bourbon Cask matured.
Craigellachie is one of the most mispronounced distilleries in Scotland. The correct way to say this is: “Krai-Gelachie” with the emphasis on the "G".
While on the subject of Scottish Distillery pronunciations there is a most excellent two-part video on a relatively new You Tube whisky channel called “Aqvavitae”. I would say that these videos are a MUST SEE for anyone visiting Scotland or joining a whisky club.
 
Check them out here.
Part 1
 
Part 2
 
Not only does Roy, the Vlog owner, give the definitive guide to pronouncing these names, he also explains some basic Gaelic grammar rules to help you work it out for yourselves.
He only has a few videos so far but his presentation style is so professional, he comes over as some leading and highly sought after Scotch Whisky Ambassador, usually hired at great expense by the best marketing companies, who, after a chance meeting, has invited you to his home and is casually chatting with you about his private single malt collection in the comfort of his own living room and back garden. Highly entertaining and informative with a totally fresh style of his own, presented with a good dose of humour and a broad yet very clear genuine Scottish accent, he blows all but Ralfy.com out of the water. He just needs a few more videos under his belt to become one of the best Whisky vlog channels on You Tube. I wish him BeHatzlacha - much success!
Most Youtube whisky reviewers do try their best to pronounce the distilleries correctly (some with greater success than others), but at least they make an effort. There is one American whisky/whiskey and wine reviewer however who I had a heated discussion with about the fact that he makes no attempt at all to pronounce the names correctly. I have noticed though that when it comes to French wine, he does seem to make an effort. When it comes to Scotch whisky, for some reason, he really couldn't care less.

As I tried to explain to him without success, I am of the opinion that you can gain a much greater appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the product you are drinking if you take the trouble to connect with the language and culture of the country from where that food or drink comes from.

Moreover, when you visit a distillery I find that they take you more seriously and devote more thought in answering your questions if you show them that not only do you know something about their product but also show them that you have a personal respect for the culture, language and history of those who made it. Making an effort to pronounce correctly the name of their distillery and the product itself is an important part of this I feel. It also adds a touch of validity when you talk about your favourite single malt at a whisky club meeting.

You can go too far though! While visiting a distillery or giving a talk, please don't go overboard and attempt a Scottish accent which I've actually witnessed a few times. I can't understand for the life of me why someone whould do this. It's cringingly embarrassing for all concerned.



Craigellachie was the first distillery we visited upon arriving in Scotland on a Sunday morning in October 2017. Actually, I drove past Edradour in Pitlochry on our way north only to find, like so many places in Scotland, it was closed all day Sunday.

 
 

 
The distillery is situated in the very heart of the Speyside tourist region. The building, sits on top of a hill, which like a castle, seems to dominate the landscape around it.  The main building declares that the distillery is owned by John Dewers & Sons, makers of Dewer Blended whisky. However, the parent company is Bacardi, the world’s largest privately owned family spirits company, whose headquarters are in Bermuda.
It seems as if no one from Barcardi has ever bothered visiting their own Scottish distillery for if they had, they would have surely realised that any other spirits company would have paid through the nose for what could possibly be the best prime location in Speyside for whisky tourism. They are throwing money down the drain every day for Craigellachie doesn’t even have a distillery shop, let alone a visitor’s centre and organised tours. The distillery is still being run as if it is one of these factory style distilleries where 100% of their output goes into blended whisky. Craigellachie however has been bottling its whisky as single malt for some time now, all be it without any fanfare or heavy marketing.
A sharp right then up the hill, I drove in straight through the front gates and parked in the empty forecourt in front of the exceptionally impressive still house with the large copper stills exposed to the outside like the massive shiny chrome engine of a souped-up custom super-charged car.

 
 
 
 
 
The reveiwer standing outside the distillery


I got out and walked about. Eventually I found a guy working on a large vatting tank.  I approached him and asked if the distillery had a shop where I could purchase either the 13, 17, 19, 23 and 31-Year-Old expressions. (I chose my question carefully whilst making sure to pronounce his distillery correctly and impress upon him that I knew something about their whisky and was someone worth talking to). He stopped his work and we started chatting. He informed me that no, they had no shop and the distillery was closed to visitors. He told me that he was the Sunday Distillery Manager. (Do they have a manager for every day of the week?) I however neglected to ask him his name. (I often forget to do this!)

I asked him what his favourite expression was and where I could purchase it.
 
He replied that if I drove 5 minutes up the road to the Costcutter grocery store in the little village of Rothes then there I could find the Craigellachie 13-Year-Old. However, being that it was a Sunday, they would not be allowed to sell me alcohol until 12:30pm. That is apparently the law in Scotland! As it happened, there was only 15 minutes to go. I thanked him for his assistance and suggested he speak to his boss about at least opening a little distillery shop to offer the many passers by, the Craigellachie range and the chance to purchase a Craigellachie Glen Cairn glass perhaps?
Five minutes up the road, I parked the car opposite the road and walked into this little high street grocery store selling your typical basic food items where you would expect to see a few bottles of your typical Blends. However, to my great surprise, one side of the store was taken up entirely with shelves of whisky bottles, many of them old and quite rare which are difficult to find, with price tags well into three figures. They even had an impressive collection of Independent bottlings from Gordon and McPhail as well as Douglas Laing, not found outside of specialist whisky shops. What’s more, prices were excellent.
I brought this bottle home with me to Israel, along with three Distillery only bottlings, (obviously bought at the distilleries) and a Bruichladdich Octomore 7.1, bought at my favourite London whisky shop “The Grapevine” in Old Hill Street, Stamford Hill.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. (Read that sentence again now but this time with a Clint Eastwood impersonation). Is that a total of FIVE bottles of whisky? Well is it PUNK?


How was I going to bring these five bottles of whisky into the country? Well, the answer is very simple and I recommend everyone to do the same thing. I gave one bottle to my dear wife to bring in through the Green Channel and I declared the other four to a very nice customs officer I happened to bump into whilst strolling through the Red Channel at Ben Gurion airport arrivals. The procedure was totally painless.


He asked to see the four bottles in my suitcase and their receipts. He then told me to put back the two most expensive ones (thus allowing me to bring them in duty free), and proceeded to fill out a form for the two cheaper bottles.  I walked to the cashier and ended up paying a sum on my credit card equivalent to what you would expect to pay for a standard bottle of Blended Scotch here in Israel. I then walked out into the arrival gate with my head held high and a smile on my face.
I urge all of you in the same position to do the same thing. Instead of asking yourself, “Well, do you feel lucky?”, instead do the right thing! it is a very small price to pay in order to avoid a possible Chilul Hashem (a desecration of G-d’s name), when a customs officer Chas VeShalom stops a religious Jew in the Green channel and asks him to open his suitcase….Seriously, it really isn’t worth the risk.
 
I opened this Craigellachie on the first Friday afternoon after I got home to Israel and allowed the bottle to acclimatise for a few hours before drinking with the Shabbos meal.

 
 
 

The Packaging and artwork is simply gorgeous. It is like something out of an illustration from a Charles Dickens novel. I am pleased to inform you that it turns out that the delicious whisky inside the bottle does not disappoint and reflects exactly the same impression given over by the style of the packaging.

 


The bottle states that it is Non-Chilled Filtered which is wonderful and quite evident when you add water. The whisky turns a thick murky white fog. It does not state this on the label but I reckon that it's probably natural colour as well with a beautiful pale yellow straw hue. Lastly, it is bottled at a high 46% abv strength which completes all the ticks in the whisky description boxes for me. 

From the very first sniff, you know that this whisky is unlike any other you have ever tried. It is true what they say about Craigellachie.  It really will take you back in time to the era when Britain really did rule the waves, the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace and people communicated by sending envelopes with Penny Blacks stuck on them. The London Underground ran steam trains and Rabbi Nathan Marcus HaKohen Adler was Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the British Empire.






On the nose, Oldy Worldy Chemists smells of wooden shelves, black tea and medicinal herbs, a faint aroma of spent fireworks in the air on Guy Fawkes night, strong malted apple cider vinegar, luscious but slightly sour yellow apples and peaches in syrup, oily honey dew melon and Lyle's golden syrup.




It is truly a most enjoyable and quite unique experience. Adding a teaspoon of water, it adds weight and body to the whisky with a slight grilled buttered meaty haddock smell. Don’t rush the smelling stage. This is a lovely whisky for nosing. Rich and full of detail.


The slight whiff of burnt sulphur like fireworks is said to be as a result of the spirit coming into copper contact for an extended period of time, far more than most other whiskies due to the distillery's insistence on continuing to use their old worm tubs. Almost all distilleries today have long since replaced their ancient worm tubs for modern condensers in order to perform the task of cooling the spirit. Craigellachie stubbornly continue to use these Victorian era worm tubs. Interestingly, I got to see a massive worm tub similar to the ones still in use in this distillery up close when we visited the Dallas dhu whisky distillery museum near Forres.









You can see the top of the still coming out of the wall of the Dallas dhu still house and entering the worm tub.

“It’s a Speyside Whisky, Jim, but not as we know it!”




It has that Highland style but nothing like I’ve ever experienced. It is certainly not your typical light floral and white/green fruity Speysider. This has depth to it. This has some strange and unusual aromas not found in any other Speysider or Highlander for that matter, perhaps with the exception of something like BenRiach? The strange unfamiliar aromas might put a newbie off but please persevere. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Tasting, you get creamy walnut whip. Oily sour apples, dried apricots and peaches in syrup.  Dried sour honey with walnuts, then the grilled buttered "chunky" smoked haddock makes an appearance in the body with vanilla cake and dry vanilla wood spices, fresh black tea leaves and tea in a cup for a fantastic finish.
A lot of Highland whiskies have a new furniture store smell with varnished polished wood on the palette. But not this whisky! Some like Benromach have a new pine wood character. Not this whisky! It’s more like an old wooden chest which is used to keep herbs and black tea.


 
The finish gives you lots of honey wood spices. Actually, the finish might well ne be rather short as you are tempted to pour yourself another dram.
This is high quality, no compromise, old fashioned beautifully distilled spirit. It is impossible to get here in Israel and difficult to find in the UK, but when you do, it won’t be expensive.
Last words.


If Bacardi are reading this, you have a hidden gem in your possession. Spend some money and open a visitor’s centre. No need for expensive marketing, it will sell itself. Oh, and when your whisky does become more popular, do not be tempted to change this taste of Victorian Britain in any way. It’s perfect just as it is.

Comments

  1. Reb, fantastic blog and one of my favourite whisky's. Interested to read about your easy experience using a declaration with border customs. I may just give it a try. The meaty component, Haddock you said, is even more marked in the 17yo expression but is more tilted towards...hard to describe...gravy browning mixed with yeast extract and anchovy. Sounds awful but it is delicious. There is a hint of attractive sulphur/rubber as if it was mixed with Gentleman's relish! This is the signature of CG and i have grown fond of it. Some of my friends are not so keen, they say it is a little tainted. Good mouthfeel, you could almost think there was a smidge of very old grain in there because of a waxy/oily component. CG is somewhat niche but it has ardent followers who enjoy it's artisan charms.

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