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Those of you who have been around as long as I have or longer are probably familiar with my appreciation for Bladnoch distillery. This began in late 2011. I was less than a year into my whisky journey when my cousin went on a trip to the UK and offered to bring back some Scotch for me.
I had been following Ralfy and actually asked him what he would recommend. Unfortunately he was little help as he recommended stuff that may have been cheaper than at the LCBO but was available here. However he had done an on-site video at Bladnoch and had spoken very highly of the distillery so I went online to the whisky exchange and ordered a bottle of the then available 10 YO sherry cask matured, bottled at 55%, along with some miniatures that brought her to exactly 1.14L.
I absolutely loved the stuff and every time a friend went over there (this is my “Florida mule” I’ve mentioned before and he used to do a lot of Europe trips with a stop in Toronto before moving to Miami) I would order a bottle with some minis. Then the 11 YO was released and I ordered some to be sent to him in Florida. With the Canadian dollar doing “ok” at the time it was still cheaper with shipping than a good bottle at LCBO.
I finally got to open the 11 YO and it was almost as good as the 10. Then the 12 was released and I ordered some. Then in 2014 the distillery was shuttered and I panicked and ordered a bunch of the 11s and 12s (no 10s available), and some are still in Florida .
Though I still have some of my 11 YO open, I had an opportunity to share open the 12 with @paddockjudge and @Victor and I took it. What a disaster. It was almost undrinkable. A rotting cabbage vegetal aroma greeted us. So disappointing.
I thought leaving it without gas would help,and have come back to it on a couple of occasions. Each time it was a little less bad. It has now been open for 6 months, 3/4 full with no gas preserving.
Neat - at first, still a vegetal smell but not as bad as when first opened. I left it in a glass for 10 min but was then called away to get to the kids and it’s now sitting 1.5 h in the glass uncovered. The vegetal smell has mostly dissipated and I get a cleaner sherry. Some milk chocolate. Red “Kool-Aid”? A whiff of dust. Swirling the glass stirs up the “dust" and a “dark” note, which I can’t seem to put my finger on. I get an occasional whiff of “potential” 20/25
With a 8 drops of water and 10 minutes: The chocolate is stronger on the nose, the vegetal note is still there but not as objectionable. Still, I could do without it. (21/25)
Neat- Sherry on the arrival, a vegetal note in the development and the strangest finish (see below). Starts off sweet then becomes astringent on the palate. I get some of the chocolate and some red wine. Thicj, rich mouthfeel. 22/25
With water, it’s a bit hotter at first. But the vegetal note is suppressed in the development. The sherry comes through a bit better. (23/25)
The finish is one of the strangest I have encountered. It is a dry finish, but when I breath out with my mouth closed I get the smell of dark purple (Welch’s) grape juice. Astounding. 23/25 With water the rich sweet grape juice on the exhale is gone (21/25)
Balance - this is pretty balanced, and gets better with each sip 23/25 - and the more I sip it the better it seems to taste
With Trader Joe’s milk chocolate there is synergy for sure. It bumps up 1-2 points. I only tried this after adding the water.
This is not the 10 YO I gave a 95 to, but with air it has definitely improved, especially with a lot of time in the glass. The individual points are different with and without water but the add up the the same.
My understanding from the distillery was that many of their releases at 55% or CS were single barrel. I do have some bottles that have a neck tag with the cask number but most do not. Some casks are lightly peated and others not marked that way. There is no guarantee any two bottles in the same collection will taste the same. I think this will make it more fun to open them from time to time because I’ll never quite know what I will get.
What I have learned from this bottle is that as someone who almost religiously preserves all his bottles with oxygen-free spray, sometimes it’s better to just leave it to air. I’ve seen discussions of this, especially american whiskey that develops over 1-3 years, but have always been reluctant to try it, especially if it’s a bottle that was great from the beginning. Now I can see it for myself.
This one will stay ungassed for the forseeable future.