Craigellachie 13 y.o. Review

Craigellachie 13 y.o. 007

46% abv

Score:  79.5/100


Craigellachie absolutely killed it with this branding.  Man, look at that bottle!  Gorgeous, old school packaging that instantly creates a preconception of the magical old school malts that folks like Serge at Whiskyfun gets to try seemingly at will.  Unfortunately, while the wrapper is definitely of the old guard, the malt is unquestionably of the new.  The former helped lure me into the purchase.  The latter led to this review.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.  Put simply, this is a minor league malt that isn’t quite being given the coaching it needs in order to play in the big leagues.  Most of the distillery’s output ends up in Dewar’s blends.  They put out about four million litres of spirit each year, but it’s only recently we’ve seen a real presence of the Craigellachie distillery releases.  I’d argue there might be a reason for that, if this malt is any indication, but I’ll remain somewhat on the fence until I get an opportunity to sample the 17 and 23 year variants.  Hopefully those have a little more balance and finesse.

I do appreciate the 46% abv though, and will keep an eye on this one in coming years to see if there’s any tweaks to the recipe.

Oh, and by the way…what the hell sort of testimonial is it when the brand itself offers up this little nugget on its website:  “Full, belligerent, and sulphurous as a struck match.”  WTF?!

Nose:  Slight grape note.  Nice barley notes.  Milk chocolate covered raisins.  Honey and lemon.  Banana, ginger and pepper.  Poached apple and cinnamon.  Some dried fruit, leather and spice (maybe some sherry influence here?).  A touch of tobacco too.  Black currant scones.

Palate:  A little more zippy here, with some tangy fruit notes and bigger oak than the nose belies.  Apple skins and lemon juice.  Burnt chilis or something, almost immediately after sipping.  Juicy at first, then dries along the sides of the tongue as it develops.  Sharp (almost bitter) vanilla notes.  Pineapples in pudding…with pepper.

Thoughts:  A punchy little malt that falls under the ‘fairly generic’ heading.  Aside from being slightly…errr…off-kilter in balance, it’s not a bad beginner malt.  Not one I’d reach for often, but that’s personal bias.  I find most Speysiders in this age bracket to be fairly interchangeable and rarely to my taste.  There’s something a little darker and more biting here than most though.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

21 thoughts on “Craigellachie 13 y.o. Review

  1. Jeff

    Yeah, not your average Speyside – and not in a good way, punching below its weight and overoaked; I traded this away for some 50% ABV Knob Creek 9 and feel pretty guilty about it. This kind of stuff does seem to be the troubling future of whisky, the “flavour led” products of which Nick Morgan and Diageo seem so proud: dominated by secondary flavours to the exclusion of primary ones and moved out of cask so quickly that you can forget looking for tertiary flavours. It’s not anything like Highland Honey direct flavouring, but it’s as close as oak will allow, “big” flavour/nose (as if anybody in a room ever missed the fact that just poured yourself a Lagavulin) at the price of little complexity. I liked Deanston Virgin Oak more than this (and more than Curt did), but it’s of the same style.

    1. David

      Well, for some, thirteen isn’t so lucky, and it looks to be the case for this malt.

      Just goes to show you that age statements don’t guarantee quality. This malt would taste exactly the same if the age weren’t stated…you just wouldn’t know it was 13.

      At least with something like A’Bunadh, you know there is a record of consistency.

      But please do not for a moment take this post to mean I support the NAS trend in principle…

      1. Jeff

        Given the Craigallachie (or even an “always great” Clynelish) would taste the same with or without an age statement, there isn’t much of an argument for not providing one unless it can be argued that age isn’t valid production information, and industry cask tracking proves it is. By the same token, A’Bunadh’s “record of consistency” can’t be attributed to its lack of an age statement, so that’s either completely unrelated to the topic at best or just yet another variation on the silly “but there are some good NAS bottles” argument at worst. Neither age-statement nor NAS labelling guarantee quality, but NAS does guarantee that the consumer will know less about what they’re buying, both now and going forward where age statements are lost. As for the NAS trend, you most certainly support it with Amrut and you’ve also said that you “have no problem with the idea of NAS in principle” in a previous post elsewhere so, to me, your sincerity speaks for itself.

        1. David

          I was simply requesting that people not mistake that particular post for an endorsement of the NAS trend.

          As for whether I support the trend, the purchase of Amrut (and by the way, more of their expressions now carry age statements) does not prove anything either way (in spite of the fact that I had made a commitment to buy those bottles – I’d rather be labelled a NAS buyer than a liar).

          I am not a fan of goat cheese. But occasionally I like feta in something. Does that mean I can’t be against goat cheese in general?

          And as for the perpetual whining against those who like A’Bunadh as a bunch of people who argue that there are some good NAS whiskies, get a life. There ARE some good NAS whiskies. Whether or not they should be listing the age does not detract from their quality.

          For goodness sakes, if you had a chance to buy a proven NAS whisky vs a 18 YO with known batch variation (assuming similar style of product), would you really eschew the NAS? If it was the only bottle you could drink from for a year?

          Be honest.

          1. Jeff

            Indeed, “be honest”.

            It is what it is; you neither support nor oppose NAS in principle and have said as much – while that doesn’t matter to me in the larger sense, I’ve given up trying to figure out what it means. If anyone had a real point to make against age statements or for NAS, they’d just make it instead of opting for willful ignorance about points already made (and for A’Bunadh’s quality not justifying its lack of age information, see above) or trying to play the victim card for being called on it.

        2. Skeptic


          You say there is no argument for not providing an age statement. I would counter there is equally no argument for providing one.

          We’ve established that age does not guarantee quality in and of itself. Perfect example Octomore 5YO vs Glenfiddich any age standard bottling.

          Let’s look at other industries. I would suggest that the age of milk is inversely proportional to its quality. But there is no “milked on” date. Even if there is a best before, it still doesn’t tell us how long it’s been around. Same for coffee beans, sugar, etc… Why hold whisky to a different standard, when, in fact, age is less of a factor in quality than those other examples?

          Why? Because this is a whisky site.

          Maybe for the non-aficionado, NAS is a clever marketing scheme to sell cheaper t produce product for a higher price.

          But admit it Jeff, you’re not a “punter”. You know quality and you can see through the NAS façade. You know it doesn’t matter how old it is but you just want to know.

          Or, can you really not tell the difference and think that if it’s older it must be better so you want to know the age?

          If it’s the latter, than for goodness sakes, try before you buy and choose what TASTES GOOD.

          1. Jeff

            I don’t know if age matters to coffee, sugar, whatever, but if it doesn’t then it’s irrelevant, and if it does then a lack of important product information on coffee and sugar doesn’t justify an omission of important product information on whisky or milk. If there’s to be such a thing as progress, the lowest common denominator can’t be taken as the new standard – something that both consumers and industries the world over should take to heart.

            I oppose NAS BECAUSE I can see through its façade; not because older, or younger, whiskies are better in every circumstance, but because I reserve the right to make up my own mind on the importance of age in any GIVEN circumstance (just as with chill filtration, ABV and E150a), and not to have that judgement superseded where the industry just finds it inconvenient to discuss age for its own purposes. Anyone who knows whisky knows age matters to its development – it’s the reason that whisky is casked and aged in the first place (and you should learn this or disprove it). Do I want the information “just because I want to know”? Well, no (duh!), but because a Bowmore 12 is very different from a Bowmore 18, but with just silly Gaelic names and NAS labels they look a lot alike and I’m no more interested in reading some reviewer’s “guess” on age (“this is probably fairly young”) based on profile than I am their guess on ABV when there’s no need for guesswork in the first place.

            As I’ve said many times, you’ve just jumped on the boycott bandwagon and then spend all of your time arguing against it; you, like David, should just man up and declare your true colours.

          2. David

            Just what part of this conversation requires that the participants be men?

            If you want to look to see why whisky was casked “in the first place”, it was to hide or transport newmake. It was only later that they found that wood imparted flavour. So maybe you need to learn something too.

            You’ve just proved to me that age statements are not very important to you. You would dismiss them in products where the amount of time they spend sitting around has more impact on quality than it does in whisky.

            If all wood were equal, and all warehouses the same, you could make a cogent argument that the amount of time in a barrel means something. But we know that’s not the case.

            1. We know that a virgin cask, first fill, refill, multi-refill, sherry or bourbon all have different effects on the spirit.

            2. We know the char or toast level on the wood has a heavy influence.

            3. We know that a wine seasoned cask has a different effect than a whisky finished in a true wine cask, and there is a difference from a spirit matured in a wine cask for its entire maturation.

            4. The cut and quality of the newmake spirit is also very important.

            5. The location, temperature and humidity have a huge impact on maturation time.

            Personally, I would like information on what casks were involved in maturing, what the maturation conditions were, etc…

            I’ve tasted a 13 YO Mortlach from a tired (must have been multi-use) sherry cask bottled independently and sold for $100 or so (Coop). When I compare it to a 10 year old Bladnoch sherry cask at similar ABV the Bladnoch wins hands down. And my A’Bunadh beats it as well.

            So, there you go, solid evidence: Age does not guarantee a good dram. Knowing the age does not guarantee a good dram.

            I do see problems with the NAS trend the way it’s been used by the industry to sell younger, cheaper to produce product for a higher price BECAUSE people like you have been brainwashed by the same industry that age is of prime importance. So they hide the age and give it a fancy name.

            If people want to buy crap like that let them. Does it make it harder to find a gem? Perhaps. Does it make whisky buying more expensive, possibly, though I suspect that’s more the demand combined with collectors that are driving prices up.

            You inspired me to check my database to look at my purchases made since you took it upon yourself to fight the good fight. Admittedly, I’ve passed peak scotch. My exponential growth in buying has plateauxed, and I am much more selective, knowing I might otherwise never drink the stuff I buy.

            Most of the whisky I bought was age stated, but I did buy the Amruts I asked my retailer to order. Do I feel bad about that? No. The NAS stuff I bought was proven, and is better and cheaper than many age stated bottles I’ve either bought or tried. Case in point Amrut anything vs Aberlour 18.

            So while I would be happy to see an ingredient list, description of all casks and time spent therein, I’m more interested in what goes into the bottle than goes on the label.

            I don’t think that makes me evil. I think it means I am pragmatic.

            But then again, I live for more than whisky. If I never have a drink a gain, age or no age, I can still live a fulfilled happy life.

            So while I really like debating, and I enjoy the mental exercise of finding the abundant weaknesses in your argument, in the end, “it’s just a liquid”.

          3. Athena


            If it’s OK for me to “man up” and interject, there are many examples in this society where the lowest common denominator is chosen as the standard.

            The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons makes no effort to hide that it examines for “competence, not excellence”. They’re grads could be cutting into you one day.

            Governments set “minimum standards” for safety, quality, all the time.

            The current Canadian government and its provincial counterparts would rather see more people work for (a low) minimum wage than to see working poor earn a higher, more reasonable wage. It’s all about the “race to the bottom”.

            Personally I agree with David, that there are more important things to spend energy on. While an age statement on every bottle would be nice, it wouldn’t help someone with a serious appreciation of whisky make a choice. They would choose the same ones they buy now, with a different label.

            I understand that the price may rise as a result of the NAS trend. But I don’t buy a lot, just quality, and I go through it slowly enough. As much as I respect what you say Jeff, I don’t think I’ll be changing my buying habits. I will buy what I like, and focus on what’s in, not on, the bottle.

          4. Jeff

            I’m not “dismissing” anything, David; I’m saying that the omission of important product information in one place (if that what was being said about coffee, whatever) doesn’t justify it in another – which was the point being argued. Age doesn’t have the same effect per year of maturation on all whiskies depending on a number of the factors you mention, but age is the prime determining factor with regards to how these factors influence and interact with each other in a whisky’s development – which is why the industry tracks it on EVERY cask – which is why it doesn’t become “irrelevant” at labelling just because no one wants to talk about it. Whisky was originally casked for different reasons, but they aren’t the reasons of today (hence “is” vs. “was”).

            As for what an age statement “doesn’t guarantee”, even in the heyday of the industry pushing age, I think you’d be very hard pressed to find anyone, even in the industry, saying that the age of this whisky “guaranteed” its superiority over that one. In any event, age statements are NOT a guarantee of quality but, if that has suddenly become the new standard as to what information a customer need/should be given then, in the spirit of consistency and full and honest disclosure, there’s a lot of things that need to be removed from labels, including distillery names (even Amrut!), colour and chill-filtration information, ABV, and last and most important of all, silly Gaelic names that try to portray modern products as having ancient and mystical origins (or A’Bunadhs, if Cú Chulainn happens to be reading). They would all need to come off, because none, (The) Dagda knows, is a guarantee of quality – and we wouldn’t want anyone to be “misled”, would we? Or would we, depending on just who “we” are? Age doesn’t guarantee quality, or tell me everything about a whisky, but no single piece of production information does, so is that the argument for telling paying customers nothing about their purchase, or just the things that might enhance sales in any given situation?

            I realize I’m the only one (speaking out) who sees the contradiction between someone saying that they’re boycotting NAS and then saying such things as they “have no problem with the idea of NAS in principle” and “you say there is no argument for not providing an age statement. I would counter there is equally no argument for providing one”. Again, it is what it is; if anyone had a real point to make against age statements or for NAS, they’d just make it instead of opting for willful ignorance about points already made (or inconsistencies in their “position”) or trying to play the victim card for being called on it. I don’t expect anyone to really resolve “supporting” the boycott but constantly arguing against it (it’s just being two-faced) any more than I expect the industry to explain how marketers decide where and when age does/doesn’t matter with any particular bottle of whisky.

          5. skeptic

            Jeff, perhaps the fact that you’re the only one “speaking out” should tell you something.

            David and I have been straightforward. Athena has been polite. Maybe too polite.

            A friend just scored a great deal on some Amrut single casks. Apparently the LCBO slashed prices (probably because they wouldn’t sell at ~$140).

            Now I know you demonize those Amrut NAS bottlings, but when I looked carefully there was a distilling date and a bottling date. So not technically NAS, BUT, 4.5 years old.

            So younger than most NAS whiskies and definitely younger than most age stated whiskies.

            And probably better than all of them (if I get to try them…)

          6. David

            Skeptic…there’s more. Each cask has the following information:

            1. What cask they were in (cask number, though they were moved from one cask to another and I would suspect some original casks were combined to fill the finishing casks and the last cask was the numbered one)

            2. what they were originally in (charred virgin American oak)

            3. what they were put into (either PX sherry or first fill bourbon).

            4. Amount lost to Angel’s share!

            5. No colour, NCF

            Now that’s what I call information! Of course, we could go overboard and ask for them to indicate whether there was sulfur candling, which bourbon it was (it COULD make a difference), but ultimately, it will either be tasty or it will not. And since I tasted them a year ago, I know the answer.

            And yes Skeptic, I will share with you…

            (you too Jeff if you want – I like spreading the experience)

          7. Jeff

            On minimum standards, Athena’s “point” is an obvious distortion of the issue; what was being discussed was allowing the business sector to determine the new “standard” of quality/performance based on just whatever it decides to put forward at any given time, not the setting/meeting of a minimum regulatory standard. The minimum wage and labour/pollution laws are a good example; many businesses don’t like where these things exist, certainly not because they ever kept those businesses from reaching for a higher standard, but because they impose a minimum standard which cuts into profits (which is why many businesses are running to jurisdictions where these minimum standards don’t exist just as fast as they can). Want to see a real race for the bottom? Allow the private sector to determine just what makes a doctor or whether child labour is really such a bad thing.

            Although it has an obvious profit motive, NAS doesn’t make sense in terms of what’s true about whisky (that age matters in all, not just some, contexts) and people simply not caring about that fact (or showing up in mutual support groups) doesn’t change it. If those who constantly argue against age statements applied the same “logic” (“age statements are meaningless and can be removed because they aren’t a ‘guarantee of quality’/don’t tell me everything about a whisky”) to any other piece of production information on ANY other product, consumers wouldn’t know anything about what they’re buying at all (and the way to get more product information is to settle for less?). As far as my standing alone on these points, I think it says as much about those who are silent as those who speak out.

            Again, it is what it is; if anyone had a real point to make against age statements or for NAS, they’d just make it instead of opting for willful ignorance about points already made (or inconsistencies in their “position”) or trying to play the victim card for being called on it. I don’t expect anyone to really resolve “supporting” the boycott but constantly arguing against it (it’s still just being two-faced, and these people know who they are and that the last thing they are is “straightforward”) any more than I expect the industry to explain how marketers decide where and when age does/doesn’t matter with any particular bottle of whisky.

  2. kallaskander

    Hi there,

    it was great news when Bacardi announced that at last they discovered they had more single malt distilleries than Aberfeldy only.
    All five malt distilleries were to publish a complete range of new OB bottlings and all non chill-filtered in natural colour.
    The hoorays ebbed quickly when the first prices became public.

    Fact is: Bacardi slept through the boom single malt wise and it seems nobody there has an idea what to do about their whisky branch. It is as well true that the make their money in whisky with the Dewar and Lawson blends but a conception of what to do with fife malt distilleries after they bought htem would have been nice. Not only nice to have.
    Probably lured into misconception by the bulk sales of Bacard rums nobody in the higher management of Bacardi seems to have a clue nor a strategy about what to do with the whisky branch.
    If that is so, sell it to somebody who has.

    And it is a small wonder that the Last Great Malts are all too expensive and do not meet market demands. The whole series is conceived from a very high viewpoint of some mangement level with hardly any contact to reality.

    I welcome the fact that the ranges now are made available. The way it is done is sad and lamentable.

    By the way lament…

    That comment by a former senior Bacardi representative hits the nail on the head.


  3. Chris 1

    “as sulphurous as a struck match.” Sounds like a shot aimed straight at the heart of King James.

      1. ATW Post author

        Nah. With all due respect, THIS is oversimplification of the issue and seeming willful ignorance (Bob’s comment, not Skeptic’s). No one cares how old it is. What we do care about however, is being told by the brands, “don’t worry about how old it is, just trust us that these ever increasing prices are fair what is becoming younger and younger whisky”. As has been said countless times (and seemingly ignored here by a few just as many), age is NOT indicative of quality. It IS however an indication as to the investment on the part of the producers and a ballpark idea as to what sort of rough edges and aggression we’ll see in the malt. Face it…aging whisky mellows it. If it’s quite young, it will generally be quite feisty. The older it gets, generally the softer it gets. Again…not always better, but at least we had one more piece of information at our disposal in making educated decisions. This is even more important for those who live in less whisky-centric places who may not have retailers that keep open bottles on hand for sampling.

        I get that some don’t care. That’s cool. But let’s not attack the few that are standing up for the integrity of the spirit. They’re out to protect that which we all love.

        And finally…as I’ve said before…be nice, boys and girls.

  4. savethelastdram

    I came here for the review, staying for the unexpected convo, LOL. there are scotch whiskies generally considered to be of good quality that are NAS. A few come to mind like Aberlour A’bunadh and Ardbeg Uigeadail. There are also “bad” NASs based on quality and what distilleries market as NASs to replace former esteemed, core range, age statement whiskies (Macallan Gold anyone?).

    There are also “good” and “bad” age statement whiskies, much of it dependent on personal taste and master distiller cask selection. There is always going to be a point where a spirit has aged “too long” and conversely, too short.

    1. Jeff

      “There is always going to be a point where a spirit has aged “too long” and conversely, too short.” – exactly, so what’s the foundation for the idea that age is so “irrelevant” to the product that the information can be withheld altogether just because someone doesn’t want to talk about age?

      NAS is a label information choice, not an actual production process or a “type” of whisky. Aberlour A’bunadh and Ardbeg Uigeadail, regardless of their quality, are no less the product of the whiskies that go into them, or the age of those whiskies, than any other product. Putting an age statement (or even more complete age information/composition) on either of them would only better inform the consumer as to what they’re actually buying. Putting up a curtain doesn’t really make any of it magic.


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