Review- Craigellachie, Worm Tubs and Some Dirty Overtones.

Recently the Craigellachie 31 was voted as the Best Single Malt at the World Whisky Awards. After a rummage in the sample box I found a 19yo Craigellachie that I had previously looked at for a Twitter Tasting with The Whisy Wire. Seemed like a good excuse to revisit the brand.

Craigellachie distillery is located near to the villiage of the same name. Built there in 1890 due to its proximity to the local rail links. As with most distilleries from this era it was designed by Charles Doig. Initially owned by Pete Mackie and Alexander Edward it is now part of the Bacardi family.

I always associate Craigellachie with its balance of tropical fruits and also with cordite (think fireworks or gunsmoke) The balance and temprement of each of these changes ever so slightly as we ascend the range.

The unique flavour profile of Craigellachie is mostly due to the use of worm tubs at the distillery, this allows for less copper contact through the condensation process which allows for a sulphurous and meaty spirit.

Worm tubs are essentially long copper coils in large tanks of cold water (tending to be positioned outside) that the vapour is passed through after leaving the still to condense. The heavier elements of the spirit are left in as opposed to the shell and tube condenser systems which, due to their higher copper contact, remove many of the meaty and sulphuric elements.

(Photos courtesy of Andrew at

Examples of some other distilleries that use worm tubs are Mortlach, Glen Elgin and Dalwhinnie.

Glen Elgin

Craigellachie 19 yo, OB, 46%abv, Press Sample (Availiable here)

The nose is floral and fruity. There are elements of over ripened apples and tannic black tea with a fun balance of perfumed undertones and some dirty overtones.

The palate is wonderfully oily with more tropical fruits, this time honey coated, alongside some dark fruity jam and creme brûlée. There is a definate meatyness here and the oily feeling turns waxy as we look to the finish.

The finish is wonderfully woody, warming and waxy. Gentle spices and vanillins emerge after the meaty and sulphur overtones fade.

Im now going to profess my love for ‘dirty’ malts. 

Its not aimed as an insult or derogatory term in any way, its just the terminolgy I use. I also regard Springbank, Longrow, Craigellachie and to some extent Royal Brackla as others in this catagory. There is just something that appeals to me and my palate about the balance and interplay between the sweetness of the fruits and the industrial, almost grimey elements. 

I’d care to suggest that Craigellachie does this best of all.