Craigellachie 51

The ‘bad boy of Speyside’ is bucking the trend for fancy decanters and giving away its newest oldest whisky for free – but how does it taste?

The small village of Craigellachie has a special place in my heart. Dinner in the Copper Dog to celebrate my engagement was a life-changing experience, and since then it has been a rare trip back to Scotland that hasn’t included a visit to The Craigellachie Hotel or the Highlander Inn.

As a result, the Craigellachie single malt also has a personal significance. We had a bottle on the whisky table at our wedding, in honour of that dinner, and have had one in our collection ever since.

Beyond the emotional connection, however, there is something about this meaty, atypical Speyside beast that is always compelling, whether its the bright pineapple of the 13-year-old, the roasted notes of the 17, or the ‘musty church smell’ and lemon oil of the 23.

Earlier this year, the brand announced the release of its ‘newest oldest whisky’ – after uncovering a forgotten cask at the distillery that had lain more or less untouched since it was distilled on 22 December 1962.  With similarly aged whiskies recently selling for £25,000 – £50,000 a bottle (or £800 – £1,785 a dram), the distillery made the bold choice to simply give it away – with brand ambassador Georgie Bell saying:

“This whisky has sat in a cask slumbering in a blanket of oak for 51 years. It would then potentially sit on somebody’s mantelpiece or shelf for another 51 years just in the bottle collecting dust, but whisky’s not made for that.”

Fifty-one years is a long time to contemplate, but this single cask was distilled when Craigellachie’s two stills were still coal-fired. Before man had walked on the moon, or Dylan had gone electric, and before the European Uni- ach, let’s not go there, eh?

Stephanie Macleod, malt master for Craigellachie, adds:

“51 years encased in oak is an extraordinary length of time. Starting life in 1962 as an aggressive beast, the whisky over five decades has developed a softer side yet still retains the distinct umami, muscular note that Craigellachie is known for.”

And? She’s not wrong, but then she knows her subject. The 51 (bottled at the cask strength of 40.3% – cutting it fine there!) has the sharp apple and waxed lemon you’d expect of a Craigellachie. Similarly there’s still a touch of pineapple, before the creamy vanilla, sweet cereal, candlewax, musty church and err ‘sexy armpit’ kicks in.

That’s right – sexy armpit.