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In 1832, Campbeltown’s Dean of Guild James Stewart partnered with Provost John Galbraith to establish the Scotia distillery. At that time, this once-small fishing port on the Kintyre peninsula had grown to become a bustling hub of distillation, with twenty-nine separate businesses producing whisky by 1835. Despite the town’s remoteness, the advent of steam navigation allowed cargo to be shipped to Glasgow, where the large blending houses were based, in just nine hours. By 1923 however, the local colliery had closed, ending the availability of cheap local fuel. This, coupled with prohibition and the Great War, brought the industry to its knees and Scotia looked to be one of the many casualties when it closed down in March of 1930.
The distillery was plucked from the abyss when Bloch Brothers Ltd purchased the site in 1933. Production resumed and spirit flowed, with the occasional break, for the next five decades before the whisky loch of the 1980’s forced it close once more. Some distilleries seem to have an ability to ride out the hard times though, and Scotia would not be kept silent for long. Five years later the stills were flowing again and in 2014, the distillery was purchased by the Loch Lomond Group who have since invested heavily in both distillery and single malt brand. Out went the horrifically ugly attempt at contemporary bottle design, out went the low strength, insipid whisky and in came a classic new look and un-chill filtered presentation. The change was remarkable and Scotia has gone from strength to strength ever since.
In 2015 I visited Campbeltown with my brother-in-law and his wife, all three of us keen to tour Springbank and its new-ish sister distillery at Glengyle. We also booked a tour of Glen Scotia, purely because it was there, and it would have been silly not to visit when we had the chance, but between us we didn’t really expect all that much from it. As it turned out, a member of staff had come in on their day off to show us around, which we greatly appreciated. At one point, the still-man stopped what he was doing to chat about his work and even let us sample a wee bit of new make hot off the stills. Later we tasted five drams straight from the cask in one of their imposing warehouses and sampled a good percentage of their newly launched core range back at the shop. All three of us wobbled out of the distillery that day as fully fledged Scotia fans and remain so today.
Glen Scotia’s core range comprises of their entry level Double Cask, 15 year old, Victoriana and both 18 and 25 year old expressions. One of their most recent releases however has been an 11 year old unpeated malt, matured in first fill bourbon barrels, before finishing in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry hogsheads. Bottled at an impressive 54.1%, the Sherry Double Cask Finish retails between £55 and £60.
Smell: Malty at first, with bourbon vanilla and caramel. Sherry notes are there too with rum & raisin, walnut and new leather. With water there’s a gristy note with heather honey.
Taste: This time the sherry comes first with raisins and sultanas, figs and lots of woody spice. Orange. Dark chocolate. Water settles the spice a little and brings out some silky honey notes along with green apples.
Thoughts: £55 is a good price for a malt aged 11 years and bottled at cask strength. Throw in a fancy sherry cask and Glen Scotia would appear to have nailed this one.
If a successful finish means allowing both the original and secondary casks to make their presence felt in the final dram, then this Scotia effort has worked out pretty well for my palate, with extra layers of flavour on top of what I suspect was already a rather capable malt. That it has been presented at a sensible price and a strength of 54.1% is an added bonus that cannot be ignored. Really enjoying this one. Recommended.
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For more on Glen Scotia visit here.