Cragganmore Distillery

Ballindalloch, Banffshire

History: The distillery was founded in 1869 by (big) John Smith, who had previously been involved with Macallan, Glenlivet and Glenfarclas distilleries. Big John was not messing about when he decided to build Cragganmore. After gaining experience from working at the other distilleries he built Cragganmore right next to the Strathspey railway line and the mineral-rich Craggan burn. The Smith family owned and ran the distillery with great success until just after the First World War, when it was bought by White Horse Distillers Ltd. It was later owned by United Distillers, who later became Diageo and still own the site today.

The whisky: This is a rich and flavoursome Speyside single malt and unlike other distilleries, Cragganmore have not released a lot of different expressions. The 12-year-old is their main focus with some special “editions” being released every so often. The whisky is very well thought of among the aficionados, winning many awards since its release. For me this single malt packs a real flavour punch compared to many of the Speyside single malts. This whisky is in high demand. So, given it's quite a small distillery (compared to some in Speyside), if you see it you should probably buy.

Favourite dram: You can't go far wrong by purchasing a bottle of Cragganmore 12-year-old single malt. You can really tell that the distillery uses some sherry casks to mature their whisky by the deep, fruity character. If you are looking for something a little bit more special then you should go for the Cragganmore Distillers Edition, which is a 2004 vintage and bottled in 2016. This whisky is finished in port pipes, which gives it extra sweetness and a real fruity depth. You can pick up a bottle of this for around £60. In all honesty, though, if you see the Cragganmore name on any bottle it will be worth buying.

Geek alert: It is said that the shape of a distillery's pot still can make a considerable difference to the final spirit. Cragganmore has a very distinctive pot still shape. Instead of the normal, conical neck, Cragganmore's pot stills have a flat top and a relatively short neck. They say this creates a rich and meaty quality (don’t worry, that's a good thing) perfect for creating the character they desire after maturation.

Why visit? The distillery is opened most of the year but is closed weekends during winter and silent season (April) at the moment. There are two tours on offer. The Cragganmore Distillery Tour for £5 gives you a guided tour, finishing off with a complimentary dram of Cragganmore 12-year-old Single Malt. The Connoisseur's Tour for £28 has the same format but you also get to enjoy tasting a range of Cragganmore single malt expressions matched with local food samples that complement each dram.

Interesting fact: In 1988, the Cragganmore 12-year-old became one of six malts carefully selected to become part of United Distillers (Diageo) Classic Malts Range, all of which gained critical acclaim and a cult status in the whisky world.

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