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Bladnoch is a lowland distillery—the most southerly of them all—independently owned and managed by Raymond Armstrong. The expression reviewed here is an independent bottling for Murray McDavid. The casks were selected by Jim McEwan, Production Director of another independently owned distillery: Bruichladdich. (That’s a lot of independence!)
Distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2008, this 16 year-old whisky was matured in bourbon barrels and finished in Amarone casks. Like the Bruichladdich Black Art 1989, this Bladnoch is a shade of pink; the orangy variety, to be precise. It’s beguiling, frankly, and suggests a not-so-subtle influence of the Amarone cask.
The whisky coats the glass generously. The body is quite oily, and a touch creamy.
The nose is delightful. Floral notes, especially roses, are quickly buttressed by sweet sherry and thick, dripping honey. Cereal grains, raspberries, apricots, and cantaloupe all make an appearance. Only slightly winey, it shows but the merest hint of the Amarone finish here.
The palate, however, is another story. Again, we have roses, cantaloupe, and cereal grains, but a lingering sweetness is balanced by a dry, somewhat astringent red wine note, showing the Amarone finish that seemed more retiring on the nose. There are hints of chocolate-covered raisins, too. Especially interesting is the extremely clean finish: it takes you by surprise.
Some will not like the Amarone qualities on the palate, but I think they’re just right. The dryness balances the sweet so perfectly that your taste buds sit atop the fulcrum of wine-finished whisky. Any further in one direction, and the wine influence would be too great; in the other direction, it would be lacklustre.