Raymond Armstrong and a group of partners restarted this mothballed distillery around the turn of the century. Unfortunately, with severe limitations by Diageo on what could be produced (part of the agreement), and other issues to which I am not privy, they were forced into receivership early in this decade.
I was lucky enough to get a few bottles of their 10-12 year old expressions, and when alerted by @Pandemonium that the distillery was closed (see: connosr.com/bladnoch-in-trouble-whisky-dis… ), I immediately ordered more and had them shipped to a friend in the US who is still working on getting them to me.
All of the Armstrong bottlings at 55%, I am given to believe, were single cask endeavours. Some of the bottles are labelled with the cask number and dates, and whether or not they are peated. Others just have the age. The spirit in this particular bottle was “lightly peated”, distilled Nov. 16, 2001, and bottled July 13, 2012, making it just over 10 ½ years young. It is the fourth bottle of Bladnoch I have opened (I also opened a 9 YO lightly peated mini) and the one that has been disappearing the quickest, having been opened December 17, 2016, gassed with each use, and with only 1/3 of the bottle left at tonight’s pouring. It is now decanted.
This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.
Rich, deep sherry, cabernet franc icewine, an umami note. No off notes. No alcohol spritiness. It has a complexity that is hard to describe. I could nose this a long time. Water raises the pitch of the fruity notes ever so slightly. 23/25
Taste: Flavour burst. Sweet sherry, grapes, cloves. Spiciness. Milk Chocolate. Heavenly. Water makes it a little spicier and more spirity. With time peppery and minty notes emerge. If there is peat, it’s well-disguised.23/25
Finish: Medium long, pleasant, slightly sweet. Wet, if that is a thing. 22/25
Balance: Beautiful Balance between the nose and the palate. If anything, just a little on the sweet side. 22/25
Adjusted score based on enjoyment: 92/100
Bottles like this one are what made me love Bladnoch. This is my second 10 YO bottle, and possibly my second favourite (the first 10 was my favourite) of the 5 expressions I've tried.
I have visited the new Bladnoch website. The distillery is, from what I understand, owned by an Australian yoghurt magnate. Everything appears to be changed. The bottles are different, the maturation is different, and the prices are different. All OBs appear to be under 50%. They state they are natural colour and non-chill-filtered.
Would I try it? Yes, if reasonably priced (unlikely). But I get the impression the new owners are spending a lot more on marketing, and it makes me wonder whether the quality inside the bottle will hold up.
In any event, The Armstrong years are gone. I’m very fortunate to have gotten into whisky just in time to find this gem, and hope that anyone who wants to try a piece of history can get access to some.