Aah, Craggy 12. Cragganmore is the Diageo-selected representative of Speyside, a point of much heated debate and mud-slinging among the whisky farts online.
Imprisoned within a fairly unassuming bottle, you’d be forgiven for passing over Cragganmore 12 on the shelf and settling on the sexier and more marketable Glenfiddich or Glenlivet. This would be a mistake!
For the sake of due diligence, I stuck some Craggy 12 in a Glencairn alongside a splash of Glenlivet to compare. And in the interests of Science™, I also tested against some Highlanders – Clynelish and Glenmorangie – two whiskies I find very similar in style (and, spoiler alert, scrumptiousness).
Absolutely bursting with fresh fruit. It has a powerful, sinus-clearing tropical fruitiness, more varied than the Glenlivet’s apples-’n-pears (I suspect from from added exposure to sherry wood). And a pleasant citrus zest – although more subdued than the Clynelish or Glenmorangie. Cream, straw and honeysuckle.
Rich and complex, a tough nut to crack. But salty. Fruity – pineapple, cherries. Woody, ever-so-slightly smoky. And a gentle floral perfume taste, all held together by toffee sweetness.
Literally a drop or two is all it can take. Any more… aaaaand it’s gone. Don’t do it! This stuff has been bottled at the perfect strength. (In South Africa at least – I pity those who have to tolerate Craggy 12 at 40%. Yikes! That alone should be cause for a mini revolution in Scotland.)
Really fantastic stuff. While it’s almost double the price of equally aged, entry-level Speysiders (the 12-year-old Glenfiddich, Glenlivet) don’t be suspicious – Craggy 12 easily justifies the overhead, blowing them out of the water with nary a backward glance.
When it comes to rival, lighter-style single malts from other regions of Scotland – Oban, Clynelish, Glenmorangie – Craggy competes neck-and-neck. If I had to choose a bottle to buy, it would come down to price on the day… or a coin toss.
As of writing, Cragganmore 12 is my favourite baseline Speyside single malt. While I haven’t compared it directly to the next tier of usual-suspects (perhaps Glenfiddich 15, Bruichladdich Classic Laddie, Glenmorangie 18) I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going hang in there quite favourably. Diageo, you win… this time.