It’s not Christmas yet, but that most anticipated time of the year has arrived: The release of Diageo’s Special Releases, rarities from Scotland-based distilleries (some long-closed) being trickled to our shores.
This year’s batch includes 10 whiskies, all of which we have on hand for review and will cover one of each day for the next 10 days. We’ll start with the only NAS release in the lot, a special cask strength release of Cragganmore.
This malt is filled from both refill and rejuvenated American oak hogsheads and ex-sherry European oak butts. Again, no age statement.
Cragganmore is a standard-grade but often quite lovely whisky, and at barrel proof it showcases a power it doesn’t usually offer when watered down. The nose is heavy with malted cereal, moderate to heavy sherry/citrus notes, and a haunting pepper/spice note that arrives when you inhale deeply. The palate continues this thread, offering a bruisingly powerful body that features loads of sweetened cereal, billowy heather, modest vanilla, and a lick of iodine late in the game. The finish is sweet, sherried, and lasting.
Traditional to its core, this expression of Cragganmore doesn’t exactly reinvent what we’ve come to expect from Speyside — but it does showcase its core flavors with the utmost of credibility.
111.4 proof. 600 bottles released in the U.S.
B+ / $600 / malts.com