CragganmoreSingle Malt Whisky
The founder, 'Big' John Smith was only 36 at the time, but had already been a manager of the Macallan, Glenlivet and Wishaw distilleries, and the lessee of Glenfarclas.
A massive railway enthusiast, Smith himself was so big that he was unable to sit down in a normal carriage and had to travel in the guards' van. After his death in 1886, the distillery remained in the family until the 1920s, when it was bought by White Horse, a subsidiary of Distillers Company Ltd (which eventually became part of Diageo).
Cragganmore has a complex fruity, toffeed style, being mostly from refill sherry casks. It has been the Speyside representative in Diageo's Classic Malts range since 1987.
From the website
Speyside today is widely revered for its sublime malt whiskies and for its fine salmon fishing. About thirty miles by twenty, this fertile triangle of land between mountain and sea has long been known as the Garden of Scotland. Barley is naturally a major crop, and the presence of Scotland's fastest flowing river - together with peat from the uplands to the south - was the reason original Cragganmore owner 'Big' John Smith felt that it would be the perfect place for the perfect distillery.
Although still only 36 years old, John Smith was a legend deserving of his motto by the time he came to this hidden place by the Spey in 1869.
When a very young man, twenty or more years before, he was already manager at Macallan. He went on to be commissioning manager at Glenlivet in 1858 then, after a spell away from Speyside at the Clydesdale distillery in Wishaw, returned as the lessee of Glenfarclas in 1865.
All the while, you suspect, this giant of a man (he weighed by various estimates anything up to 26 stone) had in mind the building of his own, definitive distillery on Speyside.
Leasing from Sir George Macpherson-Grant a site formerly used by illicit distillers at Ayeon Farm, part of the Ballindalloch Castle estate, he chose his time and place well. No new distillery had been built hereabouts for as many as twenty years, yet a boom was being enjoyed in whisky consumption.
Not only this, but Smith's chosen landlord was a major shareholder in the new railway; he built the distillery with a private siding in the confident expectation of increased freight traffic. Half a mile from the Strathspey railway at Ballindalloch Station, this was the first Speyside distillery sited to take advantage of railway transport. John Smith was a great railway enthusiast, but since he weighed 22 stones (140kg) and was too wide to enter a railway carriage, he was obliged to travel in the guard's van! He died in 1886 leaving the business to his son Gordon, who largely rebuilt the distillery in 1901.
Designed by the experienced Elgin architect Charles Doig, the new distillery buildings were hewn from hard, granite-like 'greenstone'. This was quarried from the 1600-foot hill of Cragan Mor, from which the distillery name comes. Most of the annual output of around 100,000 gallons was immediately sold on to James Watson of Dundee for blending.
On John Smith's death in 1886, his 14-year-oldson Gordon was too young to take over the business. John Smith's brother, George, oversaw it until Gordon’s maturity - during which time Cragganmore became the first distillery site on Speyside to take advantage of railway transport. In 1887 – one year after John Smith’s death - the first-ever ‘whisky special’ train left Ballindalloch with a load of 16,000 gallons.
Unusually, young Gordon Smith learned his trade in South Africa before taking control in 1893. In 1901, he rebuilt the entire distillery in the form we know today, though in keeping with tradition, the two pairs of flat-top stills (designed by John Smith himself), were preserved. Through later changes of ownership and two world wars, Cragganmore continued to produce a complex, highly prized malt, which in 1925 was rated by blenders the leading malt for blending in all Speyside.
In 1923, Gordon's widow sold the distillery to the White Horse Distillers Ltd., and the Distillery is now owned by Diageo plc., and is part of the Classic Malt Selection.
Food Pairing: Sweet-fragrant aromas with smoke and a malt finish, ideal with rich meat tastes, scotch pies, Cumberland sausage, pate de campagne, salami, prunes in bacon, roast suckling pig with glazed crackling, shredded beef with oyster sauce.
"One of Speyside's greats. Elegant and austere. Gradually, almost reluctantly, reveals itself. The most fragrant of whiskies: delicate, herbal, flowery. A palate blossoming with flavours, and a long, lingering, finish." Michael Jackson, whisky writer and expert.
Character and Style of Cragganmore
- Fruit Cake