A Divine Malt from a Great, Unsung Highland Distillery
2006 Behind the Highlander (Craigellachie) 14 Year Old “Hepburn’s Choice” K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($59.99)
“…the quality of the whisky and the distillery character shines through gorgeously.”
— David Othenin-Girard, K&L SoCal Spirits Buyer
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If you haven’t already experienced the superlative malts of Craigellachie, we strongly suggest you give this wonderfully complete “teaspooned” rendition a spin. This 14 Year Old perfectly captures everything we love about this Highland distillery, offering up a dram that is as engaging as it is drinkable. As the tasting notes will attest, it is a bit of a brute straight out of the gate, but with the addition of water, this magical malt absolutely sings, showcasing incredible range and depth. Don’t let its light color fool you, as this malt is potent and powerful, offering an array of flavors that cross from chocolate and cherries to savory spice tones. Priced just under $59.99 (hooray for the value teaspooning delivers!), this is one of the sharpest buys you’ll find in Highland malt. This combination of quality and outstanding value means this beauty won’t be around for long, so don’t miss out on this—one of the smartest buys from Craigellachie we’ve had the good fortune to encounter.
If you’ve ever been to the Highlander Inn, you’ll know all too well that it’s dangerously close to two of Scotland’s best distilleries. One has become so ubiquitous that its name does not even connote Scotch any longer, but simply luxury. The other is the rugged and rustic dark horse (formerly owned by White Horse!) Craigellachie. They’re putting out some of the very best malt anywhere in Scotland to little fanfare. The still house has been reconstructed in the modern era and looks similar to Glendronach’s, a stone and glass box, which isn’t so pretty from the outside, but gives the distiller plenty of air and space to work. It wasn’t until recently that owners Bacardi began marketing this excellent malt on its own, although the vast majority of this whisky still ends up in the Dewars blend. Built in 1891 on the cliffs across from Macallan, if you miss the turn off to Dufftown, you’ll miss Craigellachie, but the next road takes you right to the Highlander Inn. There you should stop and taste the local dram of choice. Or save a trip and try this awesome little cask. Aged for 14 years in a refill sherry butt, the malt has all the classic hallmarks of this awesome distillery. Dense and chewy, without being masked by the fresh sherry, the malt offers plenty of deep herbal character, powerful savory spice and complex cacao flavors. This malt was teaspooned with a small quantity of Dailuaine to declassify it. Be sure to add some water to soften this rugged whisky a bit.
David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: January 12, 2021
The excellent Craigellachie distillery is certainly coming up on many peoples’ favorites list. We’ve had good success with it in both sherry and hogsheads, but this is the first refill sherry butt we’ve bottled. At 14 years of age the sherry component isn’t very obvious at this point, but the quality of the whisky and the distillery character shines through gorgeously. The color – pale straw. This one is a total sleeper. It’s just barely there at first nosing, but as you allow it to sit and aerate it starts to build on some of the complex Craigellachie aromatics. Preserved citrus fruit, chalk, fresh tennis ball, camphor, menthol, baked apple. On the palate, the sweet roasted barley and zingy minerality are front and center. As soon as you add water though (a nice hefty splash until you get a bit of cloudiness), the gorgeous yellow fruit and herbal qualities really start to speak. It’s absolutely scrumptious on the palate now, with a lovely medium texture and silky long finish. This might disappoint the few who aren’t pre-programmed to add water, but once you do, you’ll see why this is a REAL Highlander. Dare I say with something that reminds me of that other great “C” Highlander—Clynelish. As some are apt to say these days, you can’t go wrong with those “C” distilleries—save for maybe Cardhu…
Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 10, 2020
Even if you don’t spend the night, the Highlander Inn is a required stop if you find yourself in the vicinity of Craigellachie. Not only does it offer one of the best atmospheres in Scotland, it’s got an epic whisky collection. This dram would be right at home on their back bar, just as the distillery sits in their backyard. 14 years in a refill sherry butt hasn’t imparted a ton of color, but sure has let the meaty and herbal notes that make Craigellachie so famous shine. Combine that with the lighter floral and fruit notes that come out to play with a little water and you’ve got a big, flavorful whisky at a stunning price. The finish is long and robust, full of dark cherries and chocolate sprinkled with orange zest and sea salt. For the price and ease of drinkability it’s nearly a “session” whisky.