Category Archives: Cragganmore

Advent Day 21: 1989 “Evergreen Forrest” Cragganmore 23 y.o. (Samaroli)

mSecret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 21 – December 21st116

1989 “Evergreen Forrest” Cragganmore 23 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Cask #2853 Bourbon Hogshead

46% abv

Score:  88/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

Hearkening back to Day 3 of our little advent journey together, you may recall we tackled a malt dubbed “Samaroli Spey”.  It just so happened that that one was actually a single cask from the Cragganmore distillery.  It was a 21 year old malt matured in ‘American Oak’ (as per the label).  I’ll assume that ‘American Oak’ reference was to an ex-bourbon cask.  This one says ‘Bourbon Hogshead’.  A hoggy – if you’re not in the know – is just a rebuilt bourbon barrel with a few extra staves added in to increase capacity.  In effect what that means is that we have similar barrel treatments.  Further…we have malts that are only 1% apart in terms of abv and 2 years apart in terms of bottling age.  And are they similar?  Well…not really.  Both do carry a lovely fresh grapefruit note I’m rather taken with though.

I liked that first dram a lot.  I like this one a little bit less, but it’s still in the high 80s when it comes to throwing a mark at it.

As to the “Evergreen Forrest” (sic?) appellation levied at this one?  Hmmm…not sure.  There’s a little bit of clean wood and a wee touch of Pine Sol cleaning product, but far from what I’d consider overly evergreen.  Maybe that’s just me.

Nose:  Grapefruit, orange and a bucket of citrus.  Hay and wild grass/prairie flower smells.  Orange and yellow lollies and orange Dino-sour candies.  Fresh scones.  Grapes.  Very clean woods, lemon furniture polish and Pine Sol.

Palate:  Charred woods.  Apple.  Sauvignon blanc.  Bruleed orange.  This had to have been matured in very active wood.  Slightly tannic and drying.  Like the effect of fruit skins.  Long linger.

Thoughts:  Not a ton of character but a decent showing for Cragganmore nevertheless.  There is a slight wine-iness about this one.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 3: 1993 “Samaroli Spey” 21 y.o. (Samaroli)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 3 – December 3rd013

1993 “Samaroli Spey” 21 y.o. (Samaroli)

Cask #1974 American Oak

45% abv

Score:  89.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Ok.  Not gonna lie.  I’m drinking ahead with my advent calendar.  I have to in order to ensure I can get these updates posted daily.  At this point I am through the first ten whiskies, and man…I gotta say…Samaroli are absolutely knocking my socks off.  These folks obviously have some killer casks at their disposal.  I simply cannot wait to get my hands on more of their releases.

With that out of my system, let’s dive in and try the wee bottle from behind door number three: a 21 year old malt called “Samaroli Spey”.

As I’m not doing any research on these whiskies while drinking my way through (it’s more fun just to simply enjoy the dram and publish some very raw notes), I had no clue which Speyside distillery this malt was from until I started pulling together this post over my morning coffee.  While copying the link to Jonathan’s review (see below) I noticed that he referred to this “Samaroli Spey” as a Cragganmore.  Ok.  Fun stuff.  Cragganmore is a Diageo holding, and not a distillery that has a particularly broad range of expressions on the market (primarily just a 12 y.o. and Distiller’s Edition…at least locally, that is).  I have tried a couple of other Cragganmore indies, and found ’em to be anything from ‘better than average’ to ‘very good’.  Having said that, let’s see what Samaroli can do with this typically rather tame spirit.

Nose:  Very soft.  Very nice.  Honey and nougat.  Sugar cookies.  A little bit of white chocolate.  Spicy bourbon notes.  Grapefruit and orange.  Pie crust.  Sponge cake.  All sorts of white or green fruits and nearly any ‘light’ and ‘soft’ dessert you can imagine.

Palate:  Wow.  Stunning delivery.  Just the ‘woosh’ of oily loveliness at first.  Coats everything.  It’s after that the flavours all expand outwards.  Flan.  Green grapes.  More of those bourbon spices and some wet wood notes.  Cinnamon.  Apple.  Fruit skins.  Not quite as awe-inspiring as the nose, but still delish.

Thoughts:  This whisky came from a very gentle barrel.  I sort of wonder what would have happened with a few more years in wood?  Either way…already a great whisky.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Cragganmore 10 y.o. Special Edition Natural Cask Strength Review

Cragganmore 10 y.o. Special Edition Natural Cask Strength440

60.1% abv

Score:  86/100


This is a nifty, nifty dram.  Not one you’re liable to find kicking around anymore, to be honest, but there IS still value in reviewing something like this.  It shows you what the distillery has in its arsenal, if only allowed to unleash the big guns with a bit more frequency. 

This cask strength edition is not necessarily a very different whisky from the standard Cragganmore, but it is certainly an amplified version of a familiar tune.  Think of it like high definition IMAX versus an old rabbit-eared black and white TV.  All of those little nuances that so often get drowned out in the white noise of standard bottling strength, chill-filtration and dollops of artificial coloring become the subtleties of an intricate weaving.  It would be a great attestation to distilleries’ confidence in their whisky if all were to release cask strength examples of their distillate. 

Cragganmore is one of the lesser known distilleries in the Diageo portfolio, contributing just over 1.5 million litres of spirit annually, in a fairly innocuous Speyside style.  Standard expressions are few and far between, so speaking to the general profile on the distillery is not something I’m willing to tackle here.  I will, however, try to post a review of the more redily available Cragganmore 12 year old at some in the coming days so there is at least a frame of reference for those out there who may be curious.  Expect a sweet, fruity and slightly floral dram.  In short…nothing really unique.

While I should admit to having a bit of a personal affinity for Cragganmore (simply due to the power of memories seen through rose-colored glasses), I have neither found one I loved nor hated yet.  This special edition is likely as close as I’ve come to embracing the dram.

Nose:  Caramel, toffee and pepper.  Apple and melon.  Cake mix.  Dusty ol’ sherry butts.  Is that smoke?  Unexpected.  Yep…smoky toffee.  Maybe sticky toffee pudding.  Butter tarts.  Crème brûlée and custard.  A little red berry.  Rather tough nose to dissect.

Palate:  Creamy and sweet.  Dried fruits, tart jam and some smoky notes.  A fair bit of sherry influence.  Quite dry.  Figgy.  Dark vanilla threads.  Some spice.  There’s an almost varnish-like note here.  No worries, though…goes well with the oak.  😉  Kinda like over-steeped tea at the back end.  Brings a little bitterness.

Nothing really special in terms of overt inherent quality, this malt is still quite nifty to try, simply in terms of exposure to something new.  An extra point as well just for presentation close to the unadulterated manner we prefer.  I got more enjoyment out of this than the score would suggest.  Just saying.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt