Craigduff – 32yo 1973 Signatory Cask Strength Collection
(Distilled 4/4/73, bottled 25/8/05, sherry butt #2513, 566 bottles, 49.4%)
Here’s something a little bit obscure. Craigduff was an experimental peated whisky made very briefly at either the Glen Keith or Strathisla distillery, apparently with condensed peaty water imported by boat from the Outer Hebrides. The latter sounds, quite frankly, logistically bonkers. In any case it was a short-lived experiment, and the few casks that existed seem to have all been bottled some time ago. So, is this a mere historical curiosity or a whisky that stands on its own merits?
Nose: Quite unusual! Old sherry – like the bottom barrel in a solera, musty with flor – and some peat. It’s not smoky peat though, but earthy, vegetal and smouldering. A little farmyardy, even. More conventionally there’s some sweet nuttiness that reminds me of those pink nougat bars with nuts. There’s some waxiness, or maybe it’s more resinous, going into mineral and limestone notes. Black treacle, dried apple rings, and a fair whack of menthol cigarette.
Taste: OK, I’m going to go off on a little reverie about going to see my grandparents in Ostfriesland as a child now, because this is so perfectly redolent of those memories. There’s German/Dutch tea, sweetened with hard crystals of brown sugar that get re-used from cup to cup, and the water from the peaty pools where you would swim alongside frogs and emerge tanned from the neck down. It’s all pretty tannic, I suppose, but not drying or unpleasant. Leaving my self-indulgent childhood maundering behind, there’s also a wee minty touch (like a mint you find in your coat pocket that has gone a bit soft), some smouldering hay, waxed orange and lemon. That resinous thing too – like mastic ice-cream.
Finish: Hints of banana fried in butter and brown sugar. Very tannic and candle-waxy. Some cough candy and the slight medicinal touch of those weird red mouth ulcer pastilles. Not long.
I have to say I love the nose of this whisky. It’s gorgeous, unusual and evocative. It’s not really too big a criticism, then, to say the taste doesn’t quite match up and the finish is a little weak. Overall it’s hugely drinkable, and hits some flavours that you don’t often encounter in whisky. Well worth trying if you get the chance, even if you don’t have fond personal memories of West Germany in the 1980s.
I would really like to compare this with Glen Keith and Strathisla from around the same period. So, if anyone would like to trade samples – *makes “call me” gesture*.