12 years old, 1980s, ac/dc, american idol, cheap trick, classic malts of scotland, cragganmore, dalwhinnie, david lee roth, glenkinchie, grunge, iggy pop, jc penney, jennifer lopez, just say no, justin bieber, lagavulin, lutheran, michael jackson, milli vanilli, mullet, nancy reagan, nirvana, oban, parachute pants, pearl jam, pop culture, reo speedwagon, review, ronald reagan, sammy hagar, scotch, soundgarden, talisker, van halen, wake me up before you go go, wham, Whiskey, whisky
The 1980s, for all intents and purposes, should be wholly shunned. Besides Ronald Reagan, what did they give us? Parachute pants. Mullets. Jeweled gloves sold one at a time. Keyboard rock. (Hurrllummpph.) That was me throwing up in my ice bucket. Good thing my buddy Shawn bought me whisky stones for my birthday.
I was born in 1972, but I am officially a child of the 1980s. I can speak with authority when I say that so many things were popular, but few were so because they were actually worth our attention. I mean, c’mon. Wham? Wake me up before you go-go? I’m going to go-go find my “Back in Black” tape and let Angus comfort me during these dark times.
In 1988, when the United Distillers and Vintners decided to follow a popular culture-influenced scheme and market the “Classic Malts of Scotland” (of which there were six—Cragganmore being one of them), we were nearing the end of the decade. Unbeknownst to most (except me, of course), we were about to see pop music go somewhat into hibernation so that we could be visited by a welcomed alternative. Yes, the pun was intentional. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam—these guys saved us. They helped Americans resolve their tortured Milli Vanilli spirits and reminded us, in their way, of what could be. We could hear “For Those About to Rock We Salute You” playing in their souls until Grunge became an official style selection in JC Penney catalogs. (I remember hearing this as one of the reasons behind Kurt Cobain’s suicide.) Once again, pop culture had claimed another victim. And then, without warning, the demon stirred to life again, tilling, cultivating, and harvesting the automaton-producing soil with souls of performers like Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, and “American Idol” contestants. Where’s my bucket? (Huurrrllmmpphh.)
Before I get too far into this rant and throw up again, let us ponder Cragganmore. Not necessarily a well-known whisky, it did have its day in the limelight. And for all that the 80s got wrong, Cragganmore is something the generation managed to choose with wisdom. When the rest of the world of alcohol was straying toward the siren call of pop culture, devising useless candy waters like Zima, light beers, and wine coolers, the “Classic Malts” were a light in a dark place. When a consumer walked the aisles of the local IGA grocer in search of hope, Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie, Talisker, Oban, and Glenkinchie (which, if you’ve read my Glenkinchie reviews, you’d know that they probably should have made it the “Five Classic Malts”) shone brightly.
The Cragganmore 12, in particular, has a toughness to its nose. Next to a wine cooler or someone drinking a Zima, it may seem like an Iron Maiden, but by itself, it is more of an early AC/DC. It sure ain’t REO Speedwagon. The scent is somewhat vegetal, with a bit of sweetness.
The palate has a little bite but sells itself as classy and smooth, carrying the sweet vegetal taste. It’s more of a “David Lee Roth” Van Halen than a “Sammy Hagar” edition.
The finish survives (but not like Gloria Gaynor). It was a bit peppery and gruff. I don’t use pepper on anything, but this was okay. It’s more of a “The Who” than “The Rolling Stones.”
So what lesson have we learned today, class? As Nancy Reagan said so well, when it comes to the 80s, “Just say no.” When it comes to the Cragganmore 12, give thanks that the Scots didn’t lose their minds entirely during the 80s and then just say yes to this whisky.