A Visit to Glen Scotia

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Glen Scotia of Campbeltown

Glen Scotia is not the most famous of single malts but I have a feeling that could be about to change. The distillery was founded in 1832 and has been in production ever since, on and off. The distillery changed hands in 2014 and the new owners have invested significantly in both the distillery and the single malt brand.

I recently paid a visit to Campbeltown with the intention of visiting Springbank but it would have been a crying shame to miss out on seeing Glen Scotia as well. It was a little tricky to organise a visit and took a few emails back and forth but this is a very traditional distillery, for whom public tours are rather new.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Callum, himself an 18 year Springbank veteran who had recently made the transition to Scotia. We couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. There was an excellent ambassador, not just for Glen Scotia, but for Campbeltown and its whisky.

We set off on a tour that covered each area of production, from milling and mashing to fermentation, distillation and ageing. The distillery is attractive if a little grubby in places (all the best ones are) and we were fortunate to spend some time chatting to Hector the still-man about his work. It’s not every tour you get the chance to chat with the people on the front line and it was our pleasure to run into Hector again the next day and talk some more. Like our host Callum, he clearly took pride in his work at Glen Scotia.

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After the tour, we enjoyed a tasting in one of the onsite warehouses. This gave us the opportunity to taste four drams drawn straight from the cask. We tasted unpeated, medium peated and heavily peated malts, before finishing with a 1989 vintage. Glen Scotia is a whisky that has sometimes underwhelmed me in the past but these four drams convinced me that it was perhaps down to bottling choices made by previous owners, rather than the quality of the spirit itself. At cask strength, it is a rather robust, engaging dram.

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Back at the shop, we were taken through the core range of Double Cask, 15-Year-Old and Victoriana bottlings. Each is bottled at 46% and natural colour, with no chill-filtration. This in itself is a sure sign that things are heading in the right direction. Any of the three drams would have been more than welcome in my home collection but I opted instead, to purchase something a little different. I went for a peated malt from a single cask, one of just 410 bottles.

The Whisky

The whisky was distilled on the 22nd April 2002 and bottled on the 28th July 2011 at 45% abv.

Smell: Seaweed and Brine, Malt, Vanilla and Lemon. There’s Grassy Smoke, Charcoal, Ash and Barbecue Smoke.

Taste: Malt, Salt and Smoke with Vanilla, Honey and Lemon, Brine, Wood Smoke and a note of Liquorice right at the end.

Thoughts: 45% is an unusual strength to bottle a single cask at but it made the dram very drinkable. Crucially, despite the lower strength, it hasn’t been chill-filtered. Or coloured. It cost a very reasonable sum of £42 and I have to say, it’s really rather good. It’s peated and the smoke certainly plays a key role in the experience but it isn’t overpowering. It’s also more of a barbecue smoke than the medicinal tones of Islay. A fantastic day at Glen Scotia with some fantastic whiskies sampled. Mark my words, Glen Scotia is a distillery on the up.

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