Saturday, December 29, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

Liquor Claus was exceptionally generous to me this year. In addition to the bottle of Glenfarclas that I wrote about yesterday, she also gave me a bottle of 10 year old Eagle Rare Bourbon (another of the fine products from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort) and -- are you ready for this? -- a Spec's key. That's Spec's frequent shopper program, and it mostly gets the key holder a discount of a dollar or two on a constantly-changing array of products. But sometimes the discounts are larger, as they were yesterday on Cragganmore Distiller's Edition Scotch. $8 a bottle was significant, and I had heard good things about the Scotch; so, in the spirit of adventure, I bought a bottle to try it out.

You will recall that Cragganmore is owned by liquor giant Diageo and that it is one of Diageo's "Classic Malts" (along with others like Talisker, Dalwhinnie, Lagavulin, and Glenkinchie), meaning that Diageo markets it as the ideal representative of all that's best about Speyside Scotches. It's helpful to remember that it is just marketing and that Cragganmore hasn't for time immemorial been regarded as the best Speyside Scotch by all informed observers (the distillery was only founded in 1869), but it is very good and well worth the money it costs if you like Speyside Scotch (and I do). Back in 2005, to expand the "Classic Malts" brand, Diageo came out with a number of so-called Distiller's Editions for their principal Classic Malts. Though they are aged for different amounts of time, all of these whiskies are "finished" in special wood, meaning that they have been racked from the barrels that they spent most of their time aging in to other barrels where they spend the last few months before bottling. Glenmorangie pioneered this technique, and it has become very popular with Scotch consumers. In the case of this Cragganmore, it was distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2005, and it ended its aging in used Port barrels. The Port influence is immediately apparent, both from the deep color of the whisky and the sweet wine richness in both the aroma and the flavor. There is also plenty of malt, of course, and the net effect is of a full-bodied dessert Scotch. It's delicious, and it makes me want to try the rest of the Distiller's Editions. Damn you, Diageo marketing machine!

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