Glen Scotia has a fair old pedigree, with the distillery having been founded all the way back in 1832, and is located square in the middle of the Victorian whisky capital of the world, Campbeltown. It’s one of just three surviving distilleries in the region, when once there were more than ten times that number.
I’ve heard numerous stories about why the competition went out of business, including everything from cost-cutting to the point of using herring casks (the local catch) for maturation, to perhaps some of the more plausible reasons that brand ambassador Ibon had up his sleeve, including American prohibition and a couple of world wars. Despite surviving for nearly 200 years, Scotia remains a small distillery, both in terms of production and presence, with heavy-hitter Springbank being the most popular in the region.
Personally I’d only had the one dram from the distillery previously, and that was the 2019 Festival Rum bottling which had been served up a couple of meetings ago. I actually quite liked it, even though it lacked balance, with my tasting notes having flavours from all over the spectrum including gas, salt and molasses.
So I was intrigued as to what weirdness Ibon would wow the group with. It was certainly a popular event, with more than 20 present, including special mentions to Jimmy, coming all the way from Boston (USA, not Lincolnshire), and Rolf who was back from Oslo.
We had the whole core range to taste, which currently comprises of:
- Double Cask – 46% ABV
- 15 Year Old – 46% ABV
- Victoriana – 51.5% ABV
- 18 Year Old – 46% ABV
- 25 Year Old – 48.8% ABV
On top of that, there was a single cask release of just 241 bottles, a 7 year old matured in first-fill bourbon and peated to 15ppm that had been released at the Campbeltown Malts festival back in May.
Ibon was on top form personally, explaining with his usual passion and gusto (and swears) the history of the distillery and drams, but I can’t help but feel he was a little bit stymied by some of what was on offer. The Double Cask is a supermarket dram unlikely to appeal to too many in the audience, and it was a little bit watery and muted on the palette, despite the ABV and the fact Scotia don’t chill-filter their whisky.
My personal highlights included the 18yo, which was unpeated, with a great balance of a little Campeltown “funk”, crisp, sugary cereals, maltiness and some darker fruits from the 1-year finish in oloroso casks. The single cask was another highlight, with a delicious balance of sweet and salt, and punching well above its age in terms of flavour. Several in the group also had nice things to say about the Victoriana, which was pretty “dirty” in terms of flavour profile, whilst the 25 year old was surprisingly delicate and against the grain of what you might expect from a Campbeltown whisky.
On the whole, the lineup was interesting to taste as a vertical. The whisky has a surprisingly wide variety of styles and flavours, despite all coming off the same stills, and it’s easy to imagine almost anyone being able to find something to like, even if every other bottling in the range wouldn’t be to personal taste. An eclectic and interesting batch of drams, for sure.
Unsurprisingly for TLWC, a variety of bonus bottles appeared towards the end of the evening to be generously shared across the group, including some independents such as the recent Cadenhead 27yo, SMWS 93.106 Red Diesel and a “medium peated” shop exclusive 9yo single cask from the distillery itself. Personally, the port cask Red Diesel was an excellent, and I normally prefer a wine finish to a port. Again, there were huge varieties in flavours, which just re-enforced the slightly scattergun approach to maturation the distillery has taken across numerous owners over the years. Thanks to those who brought them!
There was also a huge amount of sample swapping and bottle splitting going on, and despite my best efforts, I think I came home carrying just as much as I brought with me! Being just my third time at the club it was great to catch up with people I’ve now met a few times, meet other longstanding members, and welcome people for their first session.
The club next meets for a whisky and chocolate pairing evening on Wednesday 9th October.