Cragganmore is a distillery that is located close to the village of Ballindalloch in the heart of Scotland's Speyside whisky region. The distillery was founded in 1869 by John Smith, who owned two other local distilleries - the now defunct Ballindalloch and Glenfarclas. It is currently owned by drinks giant Diageo and has an annual production capacity of 1.5 million litres. Cragganmore has long been sought after by blenders and today supplies large amounts of whisky for the hugely popular Old Parr and White Horse blends.
Cragganmore is best known as being the representative whisky of the Speyside region in Diageo's Classic Malts series. The series showcases six distilleries, one from each of Scotland's whisky producing regions, that Diageo feel best represent the classical flavours and style of whisky from each of those regions. The other five are Dalwhinnie (central Highlands), Glenkinchie (Lowlands), Lagavulin (Islay), Oban (west Highlands) and Talisker (Islands). Being part of the Classic Malt series has helped boost sales and awareness of Cragganmore, with approximately 350,000 bottles sold each year. The core range consists of this 12 years old and the more limited Distiller's Edition, which is part matured in Port casks. These are occasionally joined by older versions and independent bottlings are relatively hard to find.
The colour of this 12 years old is pale gold and the nose is soft and inviting. There is a subtle mixture of aromas - sweet vanilla, some honey, dried fruits (think of pears and apricots) and dried grasses. On the palate, this is velvety and smooth with some sweet vanilla and malty cereal grains up front and then the honey, dried pears, apricots and grassiness from the nose comes through. Other subtle notes are detectable, such as a nuttiness (imagine hazelnuts), a sweet buttery biscuit-like character that is reminiscent of shortbread and a hint of citrus (think of orange zest or oil especially). The finish is fairly short with a lovely buttery sweetness (imagine that shortbread again) and some creamy vanilla and oaky wood. This 12 years old is a lovely balanced whisky that combines all of the classical bourbon cask matured Speyside whisky characteristics. It is easy drinking and smooth and would be a perfect dram to offer a beginner or someone who thinks that they don't like whisky. This is not the most complex or over complicated whisky but that is what makes it good, enjoyable and popular. Cragganmore can be found in specialist whisky retailers and a bottle of 12 years old should cost £30-35.