Friday, September 11, 2009

Cragganmore 12 yr Old Single Malt Scotch Review


Cragganmore 12 yr old
Speyside single malt scotch is whisky distilled in and around the River Spey, within the Moray, Strathspey and Badenoch regions of Scotland.

Speyside scotch can in general terms be distinguished from Islay scotch whisky on the basis of an absence of peat or at most a minimal amount of it. Speyside scotches are generally non-peaty, sometimes sweet and full of smoke. Cragganmore 12 yr old is a classic example of all that is wonderful in a Speyside scotch.

Serving Suggestion
Add half a teaspoon of distilled or spring water to a shot of this very fine scotch. The water makes the flavors richer, sweeter and the spiciness on the finish to soar.

Nose
Beautiful nose. Incredible! Flowers, baked bread and the twinkle or zing of heather upon one’s nose in a most wonderful fashion. This one of very few that claim to have a complex nose.

Palate
On entry, malt, honey and marzipan. Moves quickly to smoke with a beautiful sweetness through out. A tapestry of rich, smokey flavors, perfectly in balance, woven such that there are no unsightly seams. Truly heaven sent.

Finish
Burnt toast, cinnamon, brown sugar and sea spray woven most intricately with wisps of smoke and gentle spices linger considerably upon the palate. Wow! Having drunk this, I know I am in the presence of greatness!

General Impressions
This is smooth, refined, sophisticated and wonderful beyond its’ mere 12 years of aging. I’d put this up against many 18 yr old single malts, and Cragganmore would come out on top hands down! Pretty much a total absence of peat flavors. If you dislike peaty scotch, then you will love Cragganmore 12 yr old.

If you are a Johnnie Walker Green Label fan, this is the single malt answer to that fine blend. Cragganmore, along with Linkwood, Talisker and Caol Ila form the core of Green Label.  If you like one, you will definitely enjoy the other. 

I never truly understood the meaning of the term “complexity” with respect to scotch tastings until I tried Cragganmore 12 years old.  An impressive tapestry of flavors to consider.
Cheers!

© Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved.

41 comments:

  1. great post. i've been meaning to put my hands on the cragga for a long time. now i know i should!
    as for water, i dont like watering my scotch if it's under 50 %. even when it is above 50% i like the extra oomph.

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    1. Adding water helps release the flavours. I tend to base the amount of water added on the alcohol content, but even lower contents need a touch of water to release the flavours and aromas and to truly be appreciated.

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  2. As you probably have surmised, I have sampled quite a few scotches, but I have never been in such awe of a single malt until now.

    I just tried this for the first time earlier this week, and I literally said "wow!" out loud upon sampling it.

    You've got give this one a try.

    I prefer this over all 18yr old single malts I have tried to date.

    With respect to adding water, it is certainly a personal preference. Normally, I drink scotch neat, then on the second drink add a teaspoon of water to see the affect. Sometimes it improves the scotch while other times simply dilutes a beautiful dram.

    Cragganmore is wonderful either way. I do like a teaspoon of water with it though.

    It makes for a wonderful apertif!

    Cheers and thank you for your comment!

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  3. Thanks for your review Jason. I am weighing up between a Cragganmore and a Dalwhinie as a first ever malt to buy. After this glowing review I think I'll go for the Cragganmore!

    Merry Christmas from a v chilly London!

    Clare.

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  4. Hi Clare! Dalwhinnie is great and in the same flavor profile style (think: honey, cinnamon & smoke) as Cragganmore. You can't go wrong with Dalwhinnie, but Cragganmore, as you have observed is my favorite. For an introduction to single malts, it's the best! Feel free to email me your thoughts once you taste it.

    Cheers!

    Jason

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  5. Jason,
    In your review you said, "If you are a Johnnie Walker Black fan, this is the single malt answer to that fine blend." I have not had JWB for over 20 years, but recently tried and loved Cragganmore, are they similar?

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  6. Hi! Dave, yes they are similar. Both are honeyed, cinammon drams offering up smoke too. Nevertheless, they do enjoy pleasant differences.

    In response to your post, I decided to do a side-by-side taste test of these great scotches, one being a single malt, and the other one of the most famous blends in the world.

    Cragganmore is slightly lighter and softer in the flavors offered up. It is a tad sweeter than JWB and offering up heather notes that are not present in JWB.

    JWB has more smoke and peat and some pepper on the finish. It lacks the heather and the complexity when compared to Cragganmore. There is also a faint grainy aspect that detracts from JWB's otherwise great taste.

    So, yes, they are very similar, and to me, Cragganmore is indeed the single malt answer to Johnnie Walker Black.

    20 yrs since your last Johnnie Walker Black is too long. Buy a bottle! It won't be as good as JWB, but will certainly work when you just want a blend.

    Cheers!

    Jason

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  7. Thanks Jason! I know you are a fan of the Johnnie Walker line, what are your thoughts on Dewars Special Reserve 12 year? I'm a fan of this as well as Aberfeldy 12 year too.

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  8. David, I have only tried the Dewars Special Reserve 12 year old at a whisky festival. I liked what I tasted. Actually I was quite surprised. It is on my list to review.

    I have never tried the Aberfeldy 12 year though.

    Anyway, you need to pick up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. 20 yrs is too long!

    Jason

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  9. Jason,
    Heading out today for a bottle! May have to try the Green Label too. The Aberfeldy has a sweet syrupy taste with some heather. Very good. Thanks again.

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  10. Jason, grabbed myself a bottle of Craggonmore on your recommendation and I am quite pleased with it. Had been thinking of trying some for a while now and after my McCallan ran dry I decided to go for it. Thoroughly enjoy it and really like your blog too, keep up the good work.

    Rich

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  11. Glad to hear you like Cragganmore. It is one of my all-time favorite single malts, regardless of age statement (ie. 12, 15, 18yrs, etc.).

    Thanks for posting Rich.

    Cheers!

    Jason

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  12. My first serious single malt. Very enjoyable. I've barely dented my bottle but so far I think I still prefer bourbons, a little more sweet and a little more full bodied, I guess that's my complaint about this is that despite the complexities it's missing a bit of the "delicious" factor for me and a little bit light on the mouth feel.

    I got very obvious banana component in the nose too (a few nights in a row my sniffer was on fire and I pulled out some smells that when pointed out to my wife she could pick up too.)

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  13. Mortalscoil, if you want a heavier scotch with more challenging flavors, fuller body, there are plenty. Try any of the following:

    - Highland Park 15 yrs (my current favorite)
    - Highland Park 18 yrs (one of the most powerful and explosive on the palate)

    I don't recommend these two for the scotch newbie because they are a bit overwhelming esprcially the 18. So start with the 15yrs.

    Thanks posting your impressions.

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  14. I just bought Highland Park 12 and had my first glass a few nights ago! Wow. The nose is amazing, by far the most complex whisky nose I've come across. I'm still getting used to the smoke on the finish, which is growing on me, but man that nose.

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  15. Highland Park 12 is one of the best if not the best 12 year old single malt. This distillery has virtually no print ads and that's why it is not as recognizable. They just do business the old-fashioned way and let the product and word-of-mouth do its work.

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  16. Hi Jason I know it is almost a year since someone posted so sorry for re-awakening this. I was at a local pub on Friday and they had 5 malts behinnd the bar so I decided to give them a go.... I got to Craggonmore 12 (my girlfriend picked it as the next one) and that night I actualy dreampt about the taste! Silly I know but it is simply amazing. As we wernt there for long stupidly I didnt remember the name just that it began with a C and my girlfriend said it was 12 year old... we went to tesco supermarket today and I just had a quick look... found it we reconised the bottle. I read it was speyside (which I have liked a few in the past not knowing why until reading about the peat thing your wrote, got home tried it and it is 'The One' my favorite scotch until I find a better one. It was good price as well £24!!

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  17. Andy, glad to hear you have discovered and enjoying Cragganmore! It's great and while you consider it the 'One' right now, guess what? You will soon be flirting with some others like: Glenfiddich 15 yrs Solera; Johnnie Walker Green Label; Clynelish 14yrs and Hibiki 17yrs

    Those are all fantastic scotches exhibiting much of the flavor profile you enjoy in Cragganmore. Explore!

    Cheers!

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  18. Jason, Picked up a Cragganmore 12 after reading through your blog. I am a new Scotch drinker taking a vacation from my Gin libations. While my palate is not yet as refined as others, the C-12 was a very enjoyable, smooth, clean dram enjoyed after a light Sunday snapper supper. An enjoyable pour for a new Scotch enthusiast. I look forward to my future Scotch / Whiskey tastings. ~Rob

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  19. Great to hear it Rob! Welcome to the world of scotch whisky!

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  20. Hi Jason,
    I had my first single malt scotch in 2006 and it was the Macallan 12 yr. I liked it but scotch was not my "go to" drink. About six months ago I discovered your blog, and your insights have been my guide as my love for scotch has grown. Cragganmore 12, Highland Park 15, and Glenfiddich 15 were my first three purchases. Glenmorangie 12, GlenDornach 12, and the Famous Grouse 18 were my next three. I just added Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16 to try something a little different. Thanks to you and your reviews I am a fan of all of these. This weekend I printed out maps of the different whisky regions of Scotland and some additional information that grouped the various scotches by region and by similar taste. Anyway, thanks again. What do you think I should try next?

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  21. Edward, try Yamazaki 18yrs. It is a Japanese single malt much in the flavor profile or tradition of a Speyside single malt. Pretty incredible.

    If you have about $140 to spend and have the good fortune to find a bottle, try Hibiki 17yrs, which is a blend whisky from Japan, but will impress you beyond words. One of my all time favorites.

    I am glad that this blog is of some assistance to you. I appreciate hearing from you. Post comments any time.

    Cheers!

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  22. Jason,
    I am intrigued... Since you recommended me this malt I decided to read your review on it and I like your enthusiasm. I have about a dozen bottles to go through, but I think Cragganmore 12 will be my next purchase. Your reviews are very helpful and make my purchasing decisions easier. Keep up the good work.

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  23. Cragganmore is a subtle malt. It is not a flavor explosion but rather starts quiet and builds to quite a crescendo of flavor.

    I look forward to your impressions.

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  24. JW Green brought me to Cragganmore 12- Was Googling for serving suggestions (i.e. how much water)and found this blog--Enjoying my first bottle of C now-- Took 3 or 4 shots to reveal itself in all it's glory to me- completely seduced now- Just got the malt bug in my life because of JW black and Green -ps tried Caol Ila in a pub by chance last night- Can only describe it's taste as ethnic- mighty- and real- yet strangely sophisticated for something so bluntly honest- I'm going to get back to it- it made an immediate big impression- and I think it's got more to reveal-- Thank You Jason- Keith Richards Mitchell- Fife- Scotland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should try Talisker 10 sometime. It is a core malt of Green Label, as well as Johnnie Walker Black.

      Talisker is briny and plenty of smoke and may take time to appreciate but well worth the endeavour!

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  25. Jason, Your review of the Cragg 12 has finally led our SoCal tasting group to featuring it among other favored current, young unique malts: Caol Ila 12, HP-12, Bunnahabbain 12, Aberlour 12 (new version) and Clynelish 14. The spicy cool, herbal nose was fabulous, and different than we'd expected too: less delicacy, less fruit, more nuttiness and more smoke. The wisps of finishing salt, smoke and nuttiness placed it stylistically for us quite close with the B-12 and HP-12. Very remarkable, unusual Speyside stuff. I'd not quite call it complex or delicate in many ways; it's a hearty mouthful, one worth trying. Thanks for guiding us to it.

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    Replies
    1. Glad your group enjoys it! It baffles me why this malt is not more popular and held in higher regard. I would attribute it to a lack of marketing and the more subtle flavor profile. Most people think big flavors are better (hence, the cult like status of Ardbeg, Lagavulin, etc)

      Thanks for posting your impressions as other readers enjoy the feedback too.

      Delete
  26. The usually-entertaining Ralfy has worked his way around at last to a review of the Cragganmore 12y. A bit more meandering than usual, but still worth a peek, for the curious.

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  27. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the heads-up! I'll have to check it out. Hopefully, he likes it as much as I do.

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  28. Jason, i want to gift a bottle to a friend. Currently i am thinking of Glenfiddich solera reserve. Between Cragganmore 12 and Glenfiddich 15, which one would be better?

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    Replies
    1. They are both really beautiful malts. Cragganmore is not as well known as Glenfiddich, so it would be a more unique gift. If your friend drinks scotch, he or she may be aware of Glenfiddich, but less likely to know Cragganmore. For that reason, introduce them to this wonderful distillery and your friend will be very grateful.

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    2. This will be my next bottle

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  29. I bought a bottle based on this review. Your review did not tell any lies...

    Thumbs way way up!

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  30. My first bottle of whisky based on your review. This was a wonderful introduction to Single Malts, being a previous Vodka drinker. Second to this I tried the Balvenie 14 yr old Caribean Cask, and needless to say, this was by far much better than the Cragga, I would also recommend it as a start for those that are new to Single Malts. On my list of other malts to spend time with are, Glenfiddich 15, 18 and Arbelour 18 year old. Thanks for the reviews Jason, they sure are helpful.

    Cheers.

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Kabelo,

      My blog succeeds when you and others take a chance on Scotch and discover what a pleasing drink it can be.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  31. I just bought a bottle of Cragganmore 12 and something strange happened. The very first glass I was really impressed by a unmistakable strong smoke taste at the very end of the tasting, I think you call it the "finnish". Over the next few days however I had to really concentrate in order to taste any smoke at all. Have you ever heard of this phenomenon? I'm wondering whether my palate became quickly accustomed to it (I am very new to scotch and smokey scotch in particular) or whether the bottle itself, after being opened, lost some of the taste somehow.

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Cragganmore is not a particularly smokey Scotch. It is there on the finish (the flavors that remain after you swallow) but not super strong. If you breathe through your mouth following a sip and swallow, the smoke notes tend to be amplified.

      With you it may be a combination of the two reasons you have proffered: (1) new to whisky; (2) the flavors may have softened a little following opening the bottle, but the softening would be slight too.

      the main thing is for you to enjoy it. Hopefully you do!

      thanks for commenting!

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  32. Wow. I got back the smoke finish by taking a very small sip. :)

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