By Richard Thomas
In my mind, Cragganmore 12 Year Old is one of those single malts that a Scotch novice should move onto after becoming acquainted with the Big Pair of single malt Scotch, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. The distillery’s owner, Diageo, recognizes this too, having made the expression the Speyside whisky in its Classic Malts range.
This is the first time we have written about a Cragganmore at The Whiskey Reviewer (so many whiskies, so little time), so a word about the distillery itself is in order. John Smith, the former manager of both The Macallan and The Glenlivet, opened the distillery in 1869, having selected a spot near the River Spey and the Speyside railway that could draw water from Craggan Burn.
Cragganmore’s main claim to fame the unique, flat-topped design of its spirit stills, instead of the common “swan necks.” Much of its malt whisky production goes into Diageo blends, and Cragganmore is a particularly important contributor to Old Parr.
Cragganmore 12 Year Old’s packaging is deceptively straight-forward. The plain, clear glass bottle and not especially distinctive labeling are offset by the foil wrapper and wood and cork stopper. The whisky is bottled at 40% abv.
In the glass, Cragganmore has the color of white wine with the kind of rich substance that leans out of paleness and into gold. The nose is fragrant with spring meadow scents, heather, hay and wildflowers, mingled with a tinge of smoke, as if a fire were downwind.
The taste is quite light compared to the scent, mixing honey with a basket of nutty flavors. The finish starts off a little peppery, and rolls out into pleasant, smoky warmth. It’s a pleasant, and only slightly complex sipper, just the sort of thing for a go-to single malt for everyday drinking or to use as a starter or next step Scotch.
In the UK, Cragganmore 12 Year Old goes for around £34. In the U.S. prices can vary considerably (likely due to local liquor taxes), ranging between $50 and $65.