Cragganmore is a single malt distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. It is best known for being home to one of the six Diageo Classic Malts, in which it represents Speyside. However, Cragganmore is also highly regarded amongst blenders. It features heavily in popular Scotch blended whiskies such as Johnnie Walker, Old Parr and White Horse. Outside of the Classic Malts bottling, Cragganmore single malt releases are few and far between but worth searching out.
Cragganmore is known for its heavy and complex Speyside style. This sturdy and robust single malt adds considerable structure to blended whiskies. Occasionally lightly peated malt is also used to produce a smoky spirit. There are two regular core products - the 12 year old and Distillers Edition. The 12 year old combines ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask matured whisky and exhibits notes of toffee, nuts, candied peel and dried fruits with a hint of wood smoke. The Distillers Edition is richer with dark dried fruits, caramel and tannic spices on show.
Cragganmore takes its water for production from the Craggan Burn, which runs alongside the distillery. The distillery has an annual production capacity of 2.2 million liters. There is a 6.8 tonne copper-topped mash tun and this feeds six wooden washbacks made from Oregon pine. Unusually, they run six short fermentations and six longer fermentations per week. They are 60 and 90 hours respectively. This produces a heavy malty wash and a lighter fruitier one. These are then combined before distillation.
There are two pairs of stills. Both the wash and spirit stills have short necks with flat tops and steeply angled lyne arms. This creates further heaviness in the spirit. Each is attached to a worm tub condenser, a traditional piece of equipment that is now rarely seen in the Scotch industry. Cragganmore has three warehouses on site, plus a small visitor centre that opened in 2002.
Cragganmore was founded in 1869 by John Smith close to the village of Ballindalloch. Smith had worked at Glenfarclas and Macallan but saw an opportunity to start his own distillery. The location was chosen due to its proximity to the Strathspey Railway line. This had opened in 1863 and ran through Speyside between Dufftown and Aviemore, and was commonly known as 'The Whisky Line'.
His brother George Smith took over upon his death in 1886 and later passed ownership to his son, Gordon Smith, in 1893. Gordon oversaw a major modernisation in the early 1900s, which was designed by renowned distillery architect Charles Doig. When Gordon Smith died in 1912, his widow Mary Jane Smith took ownership. However, the onset of World War I saw the distillery (alongside many others) struggle and production ceased for a year in 1917.
Just five years after reopening, Cragganmore was sold to the new Cragganmore-Glenlivet Distillery Co. This was co-owned by Mackie & Co. - the producers and owners of White Horse - and Sir George Macpherson-Grant of the Ballindalloch Estate. This became part of the much larger Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL) in 1927.
The current owners are Diageo, who partly evolved from DCL via United Distillers (UD). UD were the first to introduce the Classic Malts concept in 1988 to show different regional styles. Cragganmore 12 years old was an original member of the line-up and represented Speyside. It remains an ever present today.
Visit and tasting tours are available at the distillery's visitor centre.