A Speyside Spectacle: Conversing with Cragganmore

It’s true, that the best scotch is born in the Speyside of Scotland. But what hasn’t yet reached the palates of most whisky aficionados is one of the rarest drams. A distillery with just 2 exquisite expressions for over a century now, Cragganmore has stood the true test of time.

After gaining a world of experience and expertise, managing distilleries like The Glenlivet, Dailuaine, Macallan, Glenfarclas and Wishaw, John Smith felt a stir within to build one of his own. His business acumen and deep knowledge about the spirit found him choosing the ideal spot for his new distillery at Ballindalloch, in 1869. The site was a part of the Ballindalloch Castle estate and Smith leased it from Sir George Macpherson-Grant.

Cragganmore in Gaelic means the great rock and John Smith found the perfect place for it. This distillery was the first to be so expertly chalked out in terms of its location. In close proximity to the Cragan burn and the Strathspey railway lines just a hop away, Smith ensured his distillery got the best in both worlds.

The burn offered pristine clean springs of water for processing and cooling, while the railways in the vicinity meant that Smith could get grain and casks from the Lowlands quite effortlessly. Dispensing these single malts to blending houses and for sale also became easier. And as if these were not good enough reasons, John Smith was a huge railway fan. He loved travelling in trains, but given his huge stature, he would often board the guard’s van.

Smith was a master distiller and one step into his distillery can testify to his astuteness of still building and production.  Unlike the usual conical shaped stills with long necks that most distilleries house, this one has relatively flat-top, short necked pot stills that cater to the whisky’s unique sense of taste and aroma. The distillery also prides itself in its washbacks of European larch wood from the Alps.

While the year 1886 bid farewell to the beloved legend, the first 'whisky special' also left the Ballindalloch Station for Aberdeen, carrying 25 wagons of 300 casks full of Cragganmore, in 1887. The onus to further the business then fell on the shoulders of 21 year old Gordon Smith who did a fine job in taking on the reigns. In 1902, renowned Elgin architect, Charles Doig renovated the building with stones hewn from the 1600-foot hill of granite called the Cragan Mor. It is in the shadow of this mammoth hill that the distillery lies nestled.

After the demise of her husband in 1912, Mary Jane or Mrs. Smith managed the distillery. Under her, Cragganmore came to a halt during the First World War for a couple of years and reopened in 1919. Being an entrepreneur keen enough to keep up with her times, she installed an electric lighting, powered by a Kohler petrol-driven generator in the distillery. A few years later, the Cragganmore distillery was sold to the White Horse Distillers and today it stands under the ownership of Diego.

Connoisseurs around the world marvel at the Cragganmore Distillers Edition as it encompasses volumes of complexity in taste, profile, and character. Matured in port-wine casks they are deeply fruity yet smoky rich and meant to be enjoyed neat or with a cube of ice at best. Apart from this, the only other expression of the distillery is The Cragganmore 12 Years Old. This Classic Malt is known for its rich, spicy, and sweet complexity that offers an enticing yet lasting experience to your palate.

Cragganmore has more to offer than just its distillery. The premise now houses an award-winning visitor’s centre that has a great place for tourists to stop for bed and breakfast. The facility also includes a tiny little gift shop and a quaint café.

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