Whisky Connosr

Bladnoch 17 YO Californian Wine Cask Finish

A disappointing rebirth

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@NozinanReview by @Nozinan

24th Jan 2023


Bladnoch 17 YO Californian Wine Cask Finish
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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.

Nose: 22/25

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.

Taste: 21/25

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)

Finish: 20/25

Sweet, fruity, slightly astringent, fairly short. Unchanged by adding water.

Balance: 21/25

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.

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Victor commented

@Nozinan thank you for an interesting review.

"Californian wine cask finish" with no additional information given is quite a vague descriptor. If producers consider the details of their production process to be a selling point, they are quite likely to reveal it for the purposes of improving their marketing. Vagueness and obfuscation where other producers give details raises questions as to how highly the producers regard their own product.

How cool would it be to be a "yoghurt magnate"? If I were a yoghurt magnate I think that I would have a pun-ny visual of cows dancing around a horseshoe magnet.

about one year ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

Maybe "non-chill" filtration means that Bladnoch only employs the most dour, bellicose Scots to to filter their whisky. "I'll filter ya, ya nae gud cloody whisky!! ACH !!! Ye'll be drinkable when I'm done with ya!"

about one year ago 4Who liked this?

JasonHambrey commented

How many wine casks are actually an improvement? I've had some that are good, but generally my heart sinks a little bit when I read "wine cask" (especially if it is a chardonnay!)

about one year ago 4Who liked this?

JasonHambrey commented

*sherry, port, and madeira aside

about one year ago 3Who liked this?