The Craigellachie distillery was built in 1891 by Craigellachie Distillery Co. Limited, a
group of blenders and merchants led by Alexander Edward. Two years later (in 1893) the
Scotch whisky world was booming and it was incorporated as a limited company.
In 1896 the business was reconstructed as Craigellachie-Glenlivet Distillery Ltd.
During the years that followed ownership passed to Peter Mackie (in 1916), the
Distillery Company Limited (in 1927) and SMD (in 1930).
The transfer to SMD marked the beginning of a period of stability for Craigellachie;
apart from a reconstruction in 1964-65 during which the number of pot stills was
doubled, relatively little happened at the distillery. Then, in 1998, the Craigellachie
distillery was sold to John Dewar & Sons - owners of MacDuff and Aberfeldy and
themselves part of the Bacardi drinks conglomerate.
Craigellachie produces quite some whisky, but it isn't a 'high profile' distillery by any
stretch of the imagination. In fact, the nearby charming town of Craigellachie and the
(equally charming) Craigellachie Hotel are possibly more famous than the distillery.
Several malt maniacs visited the hotel and spoke very highly of it.
Craigellachie itself is a fairly 'functional' distillery. It was refurbished
in the 1960's but does not have a visitor centre. At any rate, most
whisky tourists will most likely be more interested in another distillery.
The town itself dates back to before 1750; records show that at the time a ferry service ran
across the river Spey. That ferry was eventually replaced by Craigellachie Bridge, built by
one Thomas Telford in 1814. (Scroll a bit further down to see a picture).
That other distillery in Craigellachie is (The) Macallan - located west of the village, on the
other side of the river Spey, The name Craigellachie means 'rocky hill' and refers to the
cliff that overlooks the Spey. Much of the village was built on this cliff.
Craigellachie is an active malt whisky distillery, but it might as well have been a silent one.
There's simply is not that much to tell about the distillery itself and the whisky brand itself
receives little attention from its owners. That's a shame, because the beautiful surroundings
make it a perfect stop-over for a whisky trip through Scotland.
The most exciting news around the distillery since the year 2000 involved official bottlings.
A 14yo OB of Craigellachie was released in 2004, replacing the semi-official 'Flora & Fauna' expression that was
bottled by United Distillers at the same age. Ten years later, in 2014, three new official bottlings were released,
a 13yo (depicted above), a 17yo and a 23yo.
The location of the town in the heart of the Speyside region (where
the rivers Fiddich and Spey meet) makes it perfect as a 'base camp'
for whisky hunters. The Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre is
one of the other local points of interest for tourists.
Craigellachie distillery is located at the confluence of the Spey and Fiddich rivers, near the Craigellachie Hotel
with its famous whisky bar - and quite a few other Scotch malt whisky distilleries like Glenfiddich and Glen Grant.
The Craigellachie distillery is located in the heart of the Speyside
region, with Aberlour and Macallan as its closest neighbours. The
water for the whisky is drawn from springs on Little Convall Hill. .
1) Craigellachie distillery was designed around
1890 by architect Charles Doig who also
invented the ‘pagoda’ style ventilators.
3) The malt whisky which is distilled
at Craigellachie distillery is used mainly
for the Dewar's blended whiskies.
6) Just outside Craigellachie town lies the Speyside Cooperage, where each year over 100,000 whisky casks
are produced. Those casks are to be used at one of the many malt whisky distilleries in the Speyside region.
2) The malted barley that is used for
the Craigellachie whisky is obtained
from the Glenesk Maltings facility.
4) Distilling equipment at Craigellachie
distillery is fairly modern and up-to-date.
For example, the crew uses a Steinecker
full lauter mash tun (installed in 2001).
5) The distillery uses two pairs of stills.
Each of the spirit stills is connected to (cast iron) worm tubs to cool the spirit before it is stored in casks.
7) Craigallachie is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during
the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors
include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
2001 - The old cast iron mash tun is replaced
with a Steinecker full lauter mash tun.
2007 - The distillery switches to a seven day
working week schedule to maximise production.
2014 - Craigellachie makes up for lost time.
Ten years after releasing their first official bottling (a 14yo), they reveal a full range of three new official bottlings.
The portfolio of Craigellachie now inclides a 13yo, a 17yo and a 23yo - not ‘traditional’ ages like 12yo or 18yo.
2004 - The first proper official bottling of
Craigellachie whisky is released, bottled at an
age of 14 years. That's the same age as the
Flora & Faune expression that was available
(but not widely) in earlier years.
2016 - A 31 years old official bottling of Craigellachie is released - continuing a recently established
tradition of bottling their whiskies with unusual age statements. .
Craigellachie 1988 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 5cl, JC/AJA Mirrored, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Creamy and much sweeter than the 1987. Spicier as well. Sweet menthol & mint.
Then liquorice root. Fresher and more 'optimistic' than the '87 - very different altogether.
After a few minutes I got a very faint perfumy note. Shandy? Water melon? Is that marzipan?
Some more breathing produces some more fruity and 'earthy' tones and I even got some peat.
Taste: Hey, no sweetness at first. It quickly emerges though - subtle like flower nectar.
It slowly fades away again, leveling out. Not mid-80's material like the nose suggests.
Score: 80 points - if it hadn't been for a few weak spots it might have made 82 or 83.
In the end it gets almost the same score as the 1987, but it's a very different malt.
Craigellachie 1982/1996 (40%, Connoisseur's Choice, Old map label)
Nose: Mild and malty. Hint of apple. The familiar CC 'middle of the road' profile.
Hints of spices and oil - and something faintly 'veggy' or grassy I can't specify.
It grows a tad smokier over time, but it never really develops a personality.
To bad I can't really add water at this strength - it'll ruin the palate for me.
Taste: Smooth, sweetish. Just a tad too bitter, dry and dusty in the finish.
Score: 75 points - not bad, but not very good either. So, that would be 'average'...
Craigellachie 1987 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 5cl, JJ/AB Mirrored, Bottled +/- 2002)
Nose: Oily. Dentist. Herbal. Rust? Quite interesting - reminds me a bit of Hillside or Glenesk.
It grows very grassy over time - like a freshly mown lawn. The first time I ever found that!
More cooked vegetables with time. Maybe a faint hint of smoke? Maybe even menthol?
Not really my kind of profile, but it wears its heart on its sleeve, which is commendable.
Over time it sweetens out and I have to admit I actually quite liked the nose in the end.
Taste: Oy... An oiliness I don't like too much - but it's livened up by a peppery punch.
It's cool on the palate. It loses a few points right away and time isn't very kind to it.
Score: 79 points - which doesn't really reflect how I've grown to like the unique nose.
In fact, it's an average between a fresh (mid-80's) nose and a tired (mid-70's) palate.
Craigellachie 12yo (43%, Master of Malt, 95/547, Bottled 1990's)
Nose: You can really 'smell the age' on this one. Well balanced, growing sweeter and spicier.
Antiquity. The nose has something I can only describe as 'inbetween oily and organics'.
Taste: It had some very subtle fruits and appeared a little bit dry. Unripe nectarines. Violets.
Score: 77 points - quite decent. A nice dram but hardly spectacular on the palate.
Craigellachie 21yo 1973 'Drumbowie' (53.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur, Bottled +/- 1994).
Nose: Starts fruity, sweet & sherried. Turkish delight. Spices. Some organics as well, growing stronger.
This is a lovely dram for the nose. On the palate it started out a little perfumy, sweetening out over time.
When I got some liquorice in there it warmed my Dutch hart. So, this does quite well on the palate as well.
Score: 86 points - making it the best Craigellachie I've ever tried...
Craigellachie 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Bottled 1990's).
Nose: Starts off quite sharp, but after a while more sherry notes emerge that soften it up a little bit.
Over time it grows a little spicier and nuttier, but it remains 'MOTR'.
Taste: It was distinctly 'middle of the road' on the palate as well. A little woody, not much more to tell.
Score: 75 points - an average malt so let's go with that most 'average' of scores...
Craigellachie 1983/1994 (43%, Vintage Choice)
Nose: Peculiar aroma. Very light at first. Sweetish, with a little smoke and oil. Fruitier after a few minutes.
Taste: Sweet start with a hint of peat and smoke. Lacks complexity. Unpleasant bitterness, dry finish.
A sharp bite, but quickly gone. The nose isn't too bad but the taste is just too harsh.
Score: 65 points - this won't convert many blend drinkers to single malts...
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Craigellachie malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Craigellachie I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Craigellachie.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.