John Crabbie was born on the 2nd of December 1806. His father was Miller Crabbie, owner of a grocer at 15 Canongate in Edinburgh. Upon reaching adulthood John would look away from the family business however and formed a partnership with one William Cree. Together they traded in a variety of drinks products, the most successful of which was their ginger cordial.
When Cree passed away in 1840, the company was renamed John Crabbie & Co and soon took more of an interest in the scotch whisky industry. John began to create his own blends and even acquired licenses to distill spirit at the likes of Balmenach and Benrinnes. He went on to acquire the Haddington Grain Distillery in East Lothian, helping to provide a steady supply of grain whisky for his blends.
In 1885, John teamed up with Andrew Usher, famed as the pioneer of blended scotch, and William Sanderson to create the North British Distilling Company. Their grain distillery on the Western outskirts of Edinburgh would provide opposition to the newly formed DCL, giving them greater access to this most crucial component of blended scotch. With John acting as chairman, the distillery became a great success and was producing an impressive 13 million litres per year by 1897, an amount equal to some of the largest malt distilleries even today.
John never lived to see such quantities however. He passed away at his home in Royal Terrace in 1891, leaving the business to his two sons. By 1963, Crabbie & Co had come under the ownership of old rival DCL, with the last whiskies to bear the name disappearing in the 1970s.
Today however, new owners Halewood International have began to revisit the companies distilling past. 2018 saw the release of a new range of single malts, produced at undisclosed distilleries. At the forefront of the project was an 8 year old, loosely based on the original 8 year old blend the company became best known for.
Bottled at 46%, Crabbie’s 8 year old single malt retails at the very affordable price of £30 a bottle.
Smell: Vanilla, toffee & caramel. Orange. Oat biscuits. Almonds. Apple juice.
Taste: Caramel fudge. Honey. Citrus orange and a touch of lime. Malty biscuits and salted peanuts. Some light peppery heat.
Value for Money: An age stated single malt, albeit a young one, bottled at 46% is not to be sniffed at.
For such a budget friendly single malt there is a pleasing depth to its character and a satisfyingly weighty mouthfeel on show. No doubt benefits of the higher bottling strength and lack of chill filtration. Makes for a promising start to the companies return to the world of whisky, and with plans for a new Crabbie’s Distillery in Edinburgh, the future looks exciting indeed for this historic brand.
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