Glen Scotia is perhaps not the best known of Campbeltown’s Distilleries, or even well known at all for that matter but none-the-less there are interesting things afoot there. The Distillery was founded in 1832 and apart from a few short periods of closure it has been in production ever since. In 2014 it was bought by Loch Lomond Group who have invested heavily both in the premises themselves and in a new core range of whisky.
I recently visited Campbeltown with the primary goal of going to Springbank Distillery but it would have been a crying shame to be in that part of the country without checking out Glen Scotia as well. It was a little tough to organise and took a few emails and phonecalls to get things confirmed but I’m led to believe running tours is something a little new here.
We were met by our host Callum, himself an 18 year Springbank veteran who had recently made the transition to Scotia. A warmer welcome you couldn’t find – here was a man who was not only an excellent spokesman for Glen Scotia but for Campbeltown and it’s whiskies in general.
We set off on a tour that covered each area of production taking place here, from milling and mashing to fermenting, distilling and maturing. The distillery is an attractive one, a little grubby in places but then all the best ones are. At one point we were introduced to stillman Hector who talked to us a little about his work. It’s not often you get the chance to chat with the men producing the liquid itself so this was a rare treat. We actually ran into Hector the next day and chatted briefly to him again. Like our host Callum, he clearly enjoyed his work and takes pride in Glen Scotia and the whisky they are producing.
To conclude our tour we paid to take part in a warehouse tasting. This gave us the opportunity to taste four whiskies, straight from the cask (and even to open them ourselves). We tasted unpeated, medium peated and heavily peated whisky, before finishing with a 1989 vintage. Glen Scotia is a whisky that has sometimes underwhelmed me in the past but these four drams persuaded me that this was perhaps down to decisions made by previous owners rather than the inherent quality of the spirit produced here. At cask strength these were robust, engaging and flavoursome drams.
Back at the shop we were talked through some samples of the new core range – The Double Cask, 15 Year Old and The Victoriana. Each has been bottled at 46% without chill filtering and with no colouring added. That in itself is a sure sign that things are headed in the right direction and tasting only confirmed this. I’d be happy to have any (or all) in my collection at home. Instead though, I opted for something a little more unique – a single cask bottling of a peated Scotia.
The bottle was from cask number 164 – an American Oak hogshead – and it’s bottle number 374 of 410. The spirit was distilled 22nd April 2002 and the whisky was bottled 28th July 2011 making it nine years old. It’s bottled at 45%, at natural colour with no chill filtration. On the nose there’s Seaweed and Brine, Malt, Vanilla and Lemon. There’s Grassy Smoke, Charcoal, Ash and Barbecue Smoke. On the palate meanwhile it’s Malty, Salty and Smokey. With Vanilla, Honey and Bitter Lemon, Brine, Wood Smoke and a note of Liquorice right at the end.
The Scores: About the Scoring System
Smell: 18 / 20. This is right up my street, smokey, maritime and gets the mouth watering.
Taste: 17 / 20. Perhaps not as strong as the nose, or at least not as complex but nicely balanced and an altogether lovely dram.
Value: 9 / 10. I paid a very reasonable £42 for this. For a single cask whisky, one of only 410 bottles, that’s incredibly good value. The lower bottling strength of 45% ABV is a bit of a strange one in a single cask but it doesn’t affect the flavour.
Overall: 44 / 50. A very enjoyable dram – as was everything I tried that day. Take my word for it, Glen Scotia is one to watch.