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Perfect Pairings: Craigellachie 13 Year Old / Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary 

Perfect Pairings

Long considered the muscle behind Dewar’s blended Scotch, it wasn’t always easy to find Craigellachie bottlings, but in recent years, it’s become slightly more accessible. Accessible by availability and perhaps by price, but accessible on the palate is a different matter. Famed whisky expert Alfred Barnard called Craigellachie, “a style of whisky seldom met” when he tasted it in 1891. Tasting the whisky today and comparing it with other popular Speyside malts, we see where Alfred was coming from but we absolutely love this seldom-met style that this whisky has. 

While this Craigellachie is aged only 13 years and is bottled at 46% alcohol, it has the mouthfeel of a much older and perhaps higher alcohol whisky. It is viscous and feels almost heavy on the palate thanks at least in part to the distillery’s traditional – detractors would say old-fashioned – use of worm tubs. Worm tubs refers to the way that the vapors are condensed coming off the still. The method results in less copper contact leaving more of the meaty, full-bodied compounds in the resulting spirit. Additionally, the distillery does not chill-filter their whiskies, which we applaud. Whisky nerds for and against chill-filtering will argue that the difference is minimal but all you need to do is taste a dram of Craigellachie 13 and compare it to other similarly aged Speyside malts and you’ll taste it for yourself. Does it look ugly in the glass when you drop cold water in to dilute? No doubt about it. Non chill-filtered whiskies get cloudy in that scenario but we compare that to seeing plume on a perfectly aged cigar; the novice smoker sees an ugly moldy-looking growth while the knowledgeable smoker sees gold. 


In a sense, the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary is sort of the opposite of the Craigellachie. The whisky seeks more body and muscle by using worm tubs but the cigar seeks less body by not using the strongest, thickest leaves on the plant. For this reason, we recommend that you pour out a dram of Craigellachie 13 and nose the whisky. It’s a wonderful combination of biscuit, caramel, crisp apple, and a touch of pineapple in the background. Take a small sip if you must, just to satisfy that desire that comes over you when you nose something so good. Now using a spoon or dropper, add a bit of cold spring water into the whisky. When you nose it again you should notice that the intensity has come down significantly but the fruit notes like apple and pineapple have ramped up. Now take another sip and savor that sweet, oaky, fruity deliciousness while you start lighting the Illusione Epernay 10th. The cigar has a smooth peppery sweetness along with cedar, nuts, and citrus that works wonderfully with the whisky. 

Photography by: Andy Astencio

Location: Empire Social Lounge Dadeland

Click HERE to check out our other Perfect Pairings!

Categories: Drink
Manufacturers: Illusione



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