Price: $45 -$50
One of Diageo's "Classic Malts," Cragganmore is the Speyside of choice for the massive drinks company. Although Cragganmore is fairly well marketed, it doesn't quite stand up to its contemporaries such as Oban, Lagavulin, or Talisker. In fact, my taste of this came in a classic malt sampler next to Diageo stalwarts Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16. Samplers like this are of course a great way to try new stuff without going all in for a bottle that might not be quite what you were looking for.
Not that Cragganmore is bad by any means. It's sweet, grainy (in a good, barley malt sense, not a cheap grain whisky way), and mildly floral on the nose, and much the same in the glass. Speyside sweet toffee and cereal grains fade to hints of citrus fruit and flowers, leading to a rather dry finish. I quite liked the dry character; it's not one you often see, and in fact reminded me of Glen Moray, a bargain bottle I nabbed last year. Cragganmore is unfortunately bottled at a weak 40%, and could use a bit more body and a bit more kick. I get that 40% is what a lot of basic stuff is bottled at, but the rest of the Classic Malts sampler is higher proofs and just bigger whiskies. Much like the texture, the profile here is pretty straightforward, with no surprises or true complexity. Cragganmore is good perhaps for a beginner, but leaves me looking for something more, whether it be peat, sherry, honey notes, or salt air. As with a lot of rather basic, entry level whiskies, I suspect that much of Cragganmore's actual output is in fact destined for blends, in this case likely the various products in the Johnnie Walker line. Given my recent tastes of Johnnie Walker, I wish I could say I can pick out the Cragganmore, but I just don't think it's distinctive enough.
Overall, Cragganmore is not bad, but boring. It's not something I'd seek out, especially at the price. For a similar dram at about $30, go for the Glen Moray instead. Cragganmore is a fantastic name, though...try saying it out loud in a thick Sean Connery accent. 72 points (C-)