Most of you reading this know that I have had a soft spot for Bladnoch since I tasted my first bottle of their 10 YO sherry-cask matured (Sheep label). In those days, I was whisky naïve and entranced by the fairy tale story of the Armstrong brothers and how they resurrected the distillery after it had been abandoned by Diageo. But then the fairy tale went from Mother Goose to Grimm, and the Armstrong era came to a sad end.
Like a phoenix reborn from its ashes (a metaphor, there was no fire), it opened again, under the ownership of an Australian yoghurt magnate. They have bottled a number of expressions, mostly at an ABV of around 46%. I’ve often wondered where they got the distillate from as I don’t know how much was left when Armstrong stopped distilling, and he primarily used sherry casks to mature his spirit.
In December 2021 I was gifted this bottle by an in-law, and reluctantly took it home. This “limited release” has an age statement of 17 years, which means the earliest it could have been distilled was 2004, which I believe puts it in the Armstrong era. It is finished in Californian red wine casks, but the finishing time is not given. No mention of colour but with red wine casks that wouldn’t be needed. It is “non-chill filtered” which I will assume to mean that it is not chill-filtered, as opposed filtered in a “non-chill” way.
We opened this bottle on December 10 at a tasting and it has remained gassed until today, still about 90% full.
This expression is reviewed in my usual manner in standard Glencairn, 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.
Sweet, winey, dark fruits. Not quite as rich and dark as a sherry cask. Some baking spices. A hint of vanilla. With time I get some red grape juice (not Welch’s, something lighter and less sweet). Pleasant, if not exciting nose.
Water gives it a “warmer” nose but otherwise it is essentially unchanged.
Slightly thin mouthfeel on first sip. It is sweet, with a spicy effervescent note in the background. Fruity, but no one particular fruit stands out. Some baking spices and vanilla in the background.
Water brings out spicier notes, and an unpleasant sourness. (20/25)
Sweet, fruity, slightly astringent, fairly short. Unchanged by adding water.
The nose and palate complement each other but the palate does not live up to the promise of the nose. For a 17 YO whisky, it does lack some complexity.
Water unbalances the whisky to some extent. (20/25)
Score: Neat - 84/100 With Water: 82/100
I freely admit my bias. I am a fan of the craft-presented, high quality Armstrong era expressions. I’m sure this fuels my skepticism of what came afterwards. I tried to be as objective as possible but I don’t think that this stands up to Armstrong’s best.
Don’t get me wrong - this is a decent whisky. It doesn’t have many flaws, but it really doesn’t excite me either. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but at the price people pay for this whisky (I looked it up), one would expect a little excitement.