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About this Blog

Welcome to Po'Nutrition Fax! This blog is about alcohol - it has nothing to do with health or wellness, and the only relationship between this and Edgar Allen Poe is that he was an alcoholic.

I used to work in a liquor store and developed a taste for all different types of booze. As my collection grew, I felt the need to share my knowledge of, interest in, and experiences with my purchases - from the standards (e.g. whisk(e)y, gin) to the less-than-standard (e.g. kirschwasser, raki). You'll also find a lot on beer (another love of mine).

This is not about how much I can drink nor do I promote over-excess of alcohol. As with most blogs, there is some self-reflection included with most of the reviews. The point is to encourage everyone to reflect on what they drink.

Leave comments or ask questions! Also, "follow" me if you like what you read - I am not making money from this blog but if I see more interest in this and hear some feedback, it will encourage me to write more.

Cheers!
Mike

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cragganmore 15-yr Bordeaux Finish - Murray McDavid

A couple of posts ago, I committed a great deal of text trying to convince the reader that independent scotch bottlers are the key to purchasing great scotch. Unfortunately, the scotch I chose as my example was not too great, so the argument fell flat on its face. However, I have found a superb example to share with you - The Cragganmore 15-yr Bourdeaux Finish from Murray McDavid.

Cragganmore is a part of Diageo's portfolio of scotch distilleries. Diageo owns pretty much all of the biggest names in alcohol (e.g. Tanqueray, Smirnoff, Guiness) so it's no surprise that some of the most well-known distilleries (i.e. Talikser) are under their control. Furthermore they own Johnny Walker, who blends their whisky using some of these big names. Cragganmore is their Speyside malt. Sure they may own others, but their "high-end" single malt is Cragganmore.

Single malt scotch is not just "single-malt scotch" - single malts not interchangeable. Each region of Scotland developed its own unique style of scotch due to their micro-environment. So, for example, Islay (pronounced "eye-lah") single malts have very rich smokey flavors due to the iodine-rich peat in their bogs and a briny aroma since they are so close to the sea. Lowland single malts tend to be triple-distilled (unlike the double-distillation of other scotches) and not as "peaty." If you had someone who preferred Islays then buying them a Lowland single malt would be slightly disappointing for them (although no scotch drinker would ever refuse a free bottle).

Speyside single malts tend to be on the sweeter side since a lot of distilleres use a sherry butt to finish the aging process; however, this is a generalization and not a guarantee. Speyside is in the coastal Highlands and has the most distilleries of any region - Glevlivet and Glenfiddich (you may have heard of them) are Speysides. Yet when I think Speyside, I think of the sherry aged Macallan, or the sherry-finish of Cragganmore or Tomintoul. These are generally considered dessert scotches to be enjoyed after dinner.

I had been considering my Christmas gift for sometime and thought I could use a new fancy scotch for myself. I no longer get Christmas gifts since I no longer have a local family presence. There is no gift exchange or holiday meal but a series of cards mailed to me with checks inside that I put into my bank account and eventually turn into gifts for myself - usually fancy bottles of whisk(e)y. Although one may think that I wouldn't want a new independently bottled scotch after the last one, I felt I had to redeem the previous purchase with something fantastic.

On my trip to the liquor store, I analyzed each bottle carefully but kept coming back to this one. I had a price range in mind, that I did not want to exceed, and this one remained within that range. I learned from my previous experience to avoid the port-finish bottles but this was a Bordeaux finish and I decided to take a chance. I had no idea how to determine what this "Bordeaux-finish" would taste, since I had never had one before, but it seemed interesting enough to try.

The term Bordeaux, much like single-malt, cannot just be thrown around and you can't interchange one Bordeaux for another. Par example, each bank of the Bordeaux (Left vs. Right) uses different proportions of grapes in the final product (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left and Merlot on the Right). This, however, is not a wine blog so I will not go further into the differences but keep in mind one Bordeaux is not like the other.

This Cragganmore was finished in Chateau Haut-Brion casks (a first growth in Graves). I don't think the quality of the wine really affects the barrel, which perhaps has even less of an influence on the whisky, but it is an interesting experiment nonetheless. Unlike the port-finish of the previous scotch I reviewed, the Bordeaux-finish imparts very subtle aromas of dried fruit and Herbes de Provence to the scotch - these enhance the other scotch flavors rather than compete with them (like the grape-candy-and-chocolate flavor of the other). It has a very oily quality and it coats the tongue so it is no surprise that it is exceptionally smooth. It is also bottled by Bruichladdich so there was no chill-filtering and no coloring added - plus there were only 500 bottles released. A great example of independent scotch bottling.

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