September Scotch: The Craigellachie Hotel’s Copper Dog

The story behind one iconic HIghland hotel's blended whisky

To traverse the Speyside region, trekking within a portion of the Scotch whisky trail known for light and distilled liquid, means coming upon The Craigellachie Hotel. Within, one will find The Quaich (founded way back in 1893). It’s a bar that possesses one of the most exquisite collections of single malt Scotch whiskies in the world (with more than 900 available)—but blended whisky and, to be honest, just about everything else can also be found on site. It’s enough to tantalize a true Scotch lover—or someone hunting for rare liquids one can only find in the motherland. A floor below The Quaich, guests can dine at the equally famous Copper Dog pub. Both are a rite of passage in the Highlands—as is a stay at The Craigellachie, in a town of the same name (which produces a whisky of the same name).

Image courtesy of The Craigellachie

When The Craigellachie was purchased by Piers Adam back in 2014, the idea began to circulate of producing a house blend that represented the region. Speyside, after all, has the highest concentration of distilleries in Scotland. Two years later, the Copper Dog Speyside Blended Malt Scotch Whisky was born. Distribution began across the UK and finally made its way Stateside earlier this year. In many ways, the Copper Dog doesn’t only tap into the spirit of the region; it also affixes itself firmly to the nostalgia encompassing the hotel. For anyone that’s stayed, it strikes something deeply sentimental.

Image courtesy of Heart & Feints

That personal connection some will feel does not make this product exclusionary. In fact, master blender Stuart Morrison—with the help of Diageo, a minority owner in Copper Dog—brought together single malts from at least eight Speyside distilleries to make a product both delectable and accessible. It’s bottled at 40% ABV, after blending in town and aging in various types of casks—including first fill Bourbon, American and European oak, and ultimately marriage in hogsheads. There’s no age statement here.

Image courtesy of Copper Dog

All of these components yield a whisky that closely adheres to the notes of Speyside. On the nose, there’s apple and pear with a bit of vanilla. The tongue follows suit, with cardamom and nutmeg spices present. A play exists between the spice and oak within each sip. The latter certainly stands out. Together, however, it makes for a drink one can cherish alone, with ice or in a cocktail. If you know a Speyside blended Scotch, then you know what you’ll find in Copper Dog. And it works so well.

Image courtesy of Heart & Feints

As for its name—and the name of the pub—it references something rather sneaky. While the Copper Dog team notes that they’re honoring man’s best friend, they also acknowledge that this product is a tribute to distillery workers. In the days of old, these workers would snag a slice of copper tubing, solder a coin on one end and cork the other. If no one was looking, they’d dip this tool, the “copper dog,” into a cask and pull out some whisky to sip on while working—or for the walk home.  That, in itself, is inspirational—but maybe so is a $33 bottle of Scotch that honors a rather extraordinary establishment.