Based in Airdrie, Alberta, Sierra Springs Liquor has a reputation for selecting some really unique single casks for their store exclusives. That being said, the whisky under review today is a little more inline regarding the character of the distillery it comes from. What is admirable is that it’s highlighting a trend that I sincerely hope continues this year and that’s ex-Bourbon matured Scotch.
It’s a lot easier to hide a sub-standard whisky behind an active sherry or red wine cask. With ex-Bourbon casks, there is nowhere to run. Its subtle signature exposes the true character of a whisky…for better or worse. Thankfully, the whisky under review today falls into the former category!
This Sierra Springs Liquor exclusive comes from the First Editions independent bottlers. It’s a 13 year old from Craigellachie Distillery located in the Speyside region. It’s matured in a single ex-Bourbon cask and bottled at 57.1%.
Nose: When you pour this, be patient and let it sit a while. Advice I would also extend to Craigellachie’s core range. Even in their older aged stated bottlings, there develops this rich toasted, malty cereal note, which gives it a very old-school character. Most ex-Bourbon matured Speyside whiskies have an intense tropical fruitiness. This whisky is certainly tropical, yet there is this nice sweet and savoury balance that is rare for a Speysider. Freshly sliced and dried pineapple is joined by this intriguing cheese note. Nothing strong. Maybe a lightly spiced Gouda. Honey, dried ginger and vanilla are all present as well. Ripe pear is in there, but it’s faint. There’s a bit of alcoholic sharpness on this one due to its proof, so keep that schnozolla above the rim of your glass!
Palate: That old school vibe comes across big time right from the entry. Oily, mouthcoating, intensely malty, but not in a youthful way at all. Guns n’ Roses were still playing dive bars on the Sunset Strip when whisky with this character was being bottled. That malty character cuts through the sweetness, citrus and spice. Cinnamon shows up part way through. At the end of the development I get something akin to a cocoa covered dark fudge ball, laced with a few chili flakes. I would have liked to have seen just a touch more of that pear that I got on the nose. That would have sent this one into the stratosphere.
Finish: The only thing I would say against this whisky is that the finish is not as characterful as the rest of the experience. This is something I have also noticed in their core range as well. It’s not that it’s bad. Just shorter than expected. When your glass is empty, keep nosing it as it’s an experience in and of itself.
Craigellachie’s core 13 year old is still a bargain at around $80 CAD. Being a single cask, cask strength store exclusive, this one is a steal at $120. For those such as myself, whisky like this, which harkens back to better days, is a great education in what old-school Scotch used to taste like. For you old-timers out there, it will be a trip down memory lane.