Cragganmore 12

Subtlety Reigns Supreme for Apprentices and Enthusiasts Neat Before Dinner or with a Light Meal

photo courtesy of Diageo

Whisky Reviewed: Cragganmore 12
Distiller: Diageo
Region: Speyside
Suggested Retail Price: $60+
Wine Enthusiast Rating: 90-95
USC Rating: 94
Distiller Rating: 86

Mark’s Review

Saturday night at a local restaurant and there it was, the core of Johnnie Walker’s product line, Cragganmore 12 year. No big deal. Right? Wrong!

The first aromas were, yeah, yeah, been there, done that, JW Black. But after two minutes of air, I lost my cynicism.

Refined scents rose from my Glencairn compelling me to pay full attention to a curious and varied sweetness. Caramel, almonds, wild honey and toffee together with floral chestnut vapors floated on gentle clouds. When I freed my nose, from the glass and tempted the fates of taste, the same pleasant subtle qualities ensued but with extra bonuses. A keen maltiness and creamy pound cake spread through my mouth and continued in the back palate without let up ending in a wisp of smoke. My continuous wide smiles were both unforeseen and unrestrained. They seemed to go on forever like the Energizer Bunny. When I added water I expected a typical 40% ABV flavor and finish dilution. Not here. A few drops subdued the main sugar factor, but emphasized the char.

Jason Debly’s comment is perfect: “This is gorgeous… an impressive tapestry of flavors to consider”.

This tender spirit is not for power or peat lovers and don’t think of using Cragganmore in a mixed drink. But the Apprentice learning about Speyside will find education in a bottle and the Enthusiast discovers a long-term addition to their collection.

Enjoy this neat before a meal; with a lobster dinner or any light food.

What I don’t get is Distiller’s write-up below. How can you give a 86 rating to a “hidden gem”? Take the number with a grain of salt. I leave you with a quote from Ari, the whisky guy, (a great 60 second video review): “This goes on my top shelf.”

Mark Garbin’s Evaluation

Aromas & Flavor Appeals to: Optimal Client Type Great For:
Subtlety Aficionado Apprentice Cocktails
Power Flavor Admirer Enthusiast Neat Before Dinner
Balanced Devotee Adventurer With Food (Light)
Chameleon Lover Hedonist Dessert or Afterwards


Wine Enthusiast rating: The succulent aroma develops with aeration in the sweet forms of barley, cream, light caramel, and a trace of tropical fruit. Palate entry is round, borderline plump, breakfast-cereal sweet, and honeyed; at midpalate, there’s a slightly oily peat smoke. Sweetly concludes with the focus on the malt.

USC rating: Stunningly golden dram with aromas of sweet stone fruits, citrus, honey, cereal, and a wisp of sage. Soft and smooth with flavors of malted chocolate, smoke, and dried apricot that build onto a mellow, semi-sweet, and smoky finish. Fantastic.

Distiller rating: This whisky is quite the hidden gem in Diageo’s Malt Whisky Collection. The whisky is filled with heather, honey, nuts, and pears. Delicate smoke comes in on the palate along with dried cherry and more honeyed nuts. It is a shame that this whisky doesn’t get heralded more than it does, but then again, maybe it’s okay to keep this one a secret. –Stephanie Moreno