SMWS Cragganmore 37.82 Curious Complexity 13 year old

If Cragganmore was a band then I reckon it’d be Black Sabbath. It’s been around for generations and has persistently stuck to its guns when it comes to the style of whisky and doing things right. It’s shunned fashions and waited for public opinion to latch onto its efforts. Except that Cragganmore isn’t quite there yet and deserves more of your time.

Officially there is the excellent Cragganmore 12-year-old that is recommended and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Distillers Edition truth be told, but I tend to dismiss these fancy finishes from Diageo as little more than tourist bait. Some of the best Cragganmore’s are actually featured on the special tour at Ballindalloch distillery; straight from the cellar. The tasting itself underlined that Cragganmore deserved a little more time and recognition. Hence this purchase of one of the more recent Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings (37.82) entitled Curious Complexity. This was distilled on 1st October 2002 in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead, resulting in an outturn of 210 bottles at 58.9 abv. This would have been £56.10 to members of the SMWS but sadly it has since sold out.

Currently my membership is due to expire at the end of February. Several friends and enthusiasts that I know of have not taken up the option of another year. Since the change in ownership of the SMWS there have been improvements to local branches and other aspects which signify a sign of the times. These include the price of bottles and now being charged for postage that for the aforementioned have prompted them to step away from the Society.

Of late, I haven’t bought much from the Society as a member. That’s not a reflection of pricing but rather the increased competition in the marketplace. In 2017 if you didn’t know, Cadenheads are doing monthly bottlings to celebrate their 175th anniversary and if January is anything to go by, then it’s going to be a formidable 12 batches. The range of distilleries and casks is marvellous and so are the prices for once. For the SMWS things tend to revolve around the same distilleries on a consistent basis and I’m still not a fan of these short cask finishes we’ve seen of late. Cadenheads when the do introduce an addition cask tend to then let it sit for a couple of years rather than months.

In reality there is only so much money in your pocket. With so much whisky appearing almost weekly from bottlers new and old, it’s not only a question of cost but also health. These things have to be weighed up and as an onlooker I have to question what variety actually remains in the SMWS warehouse, as there seems to be a lull in variety. A couple of years ago admittedly we did experience an Indian summer of bottlings and whilst this can never continue indefinitely, the decline has been noticeable.

Take for instance this recent Cadenheads Cragganmore 22-year-old that I picked up from their shop for just £70. Exceptional value and a solid whisky. That’s not too far off the price of this 13-year-old so already my expectations are toughened up.

Colour: a washed out pine
Nose: A real freshness with olives and pine wood assisted by an old fashioned lemonade and a twist of lime.  Almonds, vanilla, resin, under-baked sponge cake and a buttery shortbread follow. Water brings out apples and cinnamon plus a little wax.
Taste: this certainly needs water! More of the nose with buttery pancakes, sherbet, maple syrup and limoncello. Shortbread, icing sugar and golden syrup take us towards the end of this sweet orientated Cragganmore. 

Overall: another solid Cragganmore but not one I'd rave about to any degree. In reality I much prefer the standard 12-year-old bottling which is quite rightly a classic malt.

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