...because this dram needs water like the desert needs the rain! I found the neat dram unimpressive and woody without any highlights to mention - but after adding a fair share of water all of a sudden the flavours erupt and a fine and quaffable profile enfolds. So do not fool yourself with a strict "neat-drams-only" drinking policy and reduce this dram to about 45% abv. It makes a huge difference, as much as 4-5 points in my book (I had the neat dram at 84 points only).
The colour is deep gold and the nose of the neat dram is very closed and punchy. Not so many aromas are detectable at all, mainly wood-driven ones. This is unimpressive and boring, I score it 82 points only. After adding a significant share of water to reduce the dram to about 45% (after playing a little around with watee this turned out to be the most enjoyable abv, to me) the aromas all of a sudden explode in the glass and offer the fine fruity Cragganmore profile as I like it. This balances out the wooden notes almost completely, what a surprise! Now this nose is very enjoyable and it gets even better upon breathing. Wow, this is biggest improvement upon reduction I can remember - from 82 to 88 points just with the help of a little water, stunning...
The taste of the neat dram is alcoholic and wood-driven with just some sweet barley sugary flavours shining through. I have to chew quite a while to detect the trademark Cragganmore fruits but they are overwhelmed by the heavy oaky notes. The neat score is 85 points here, after the chewing. The reduced taste is much, much better and very quaffable. It offers an amalgam of fruits, honeys, spices, floral impressions and waxes in a firm but no longer dominating wooden framework. I like to chew and explore it despite there are no layers, but in the reduced dram a lot of flavours are to catch nonetheless.
The initial mouthfeel is very hot with again significant bitter-drying woody moments. Same with the medium finish, the neat dram scores 84 points here. To reduced dram arrives nicely on the palate with a warming feeling and creamy coating texture, the bitter-drying wooden moments are still there but they do no harm in this setting. The finish gains significantly in length and adds more honey-fruity flavours as well as some drying-herbal impressions to balance the sweetness. It gets increasingly drying towards the end (cardboards) but it is not really distracting (compared to the neat version this is rather smooth).