I like Glen Scotia for some bizarre reason. The runt of the Campbeltown litter, it took far too long for this distillery to find its direction and purpose. Now we’re seeing the fruits of those labours and while personally, I miss the dayglo Highland Cows and that funky sense of presentation. The quality of releases and their presentation have certainly improved.
Towards the end of the millennium, the future of Glen Scotia looked bleak. New owners lacked the appetite and vision for this distant Campbeltown outpost. Situated within a whisky region that was not prosperous or immediately approachable during difficult market conditions. Glen Scotia looked doomed. Lacking such motivation, the closure of the distillery was nothing new, but this time was potentially fatal.
If there’s one thing that unites Campbeltown then it is the ability to survive and adapt to changing conditions. The new owners in Loch Lomond distillery at least recognised its potential when the stills were fired up again in 1999. Thanks to the local knowledge and workforce from Springbank distillery, Glen Scotia was reborn with enthusiasm.
Firing up a distillery again is a monumental moment and whilst representing the successful vanquishing of a set of challenges, it reveals another set of hurdles arguably just as challenging. Or as I like to refer to them as the Loch Lomond problem. Each distillery is unique. Every producer has a unique style and spirit to call its own. The workforce feels a loyalty to its product and a certain pride in the produce. These are all given, but for any distillery, it is about financial backing and the confidence to get that message out to the market and attract the public to interact with the whisky.
Loch Lomond for many years despite its best efforts lacked a cohesive identity. We’ve already touched upon the dayglo presentation of a few years ago. Possibly a desperate roll of the dice to say hey come look at me I’m different. It certainly sparked conversation but didn’t turn the tide. Loch Lomond itself can produce and does produce more styles of spirit on its site. This Aladdin’s cave of possibilities was a hindrance as much as an opportunity. A confused core range and lack of direction at the parent company distillery would filter down and result in the same situation for Scotia.
Thankfully in 2014, new owners took over the Loch Lomond group and brought about a new direction, confidence and finance to make it happen. There’s never been any doubt that Glen Scotia or Loch Lomond can produce a quality whisky. At times it’s just finding the whisky for you that’s been the difficult part of the equation.
Today we’re seeing a new Glen Scotia full of confidence, offering quality whiskies at a reasonable price. Much like Loch Lomond – see the pattern? The Victoriana has its core fans as does the Glen Scotia Double Cask and then a growing range of age statements. For all of these and their agreeable nature – we need to review more Glen Scotia here – I still love the single cask format. The Scotia’s that have a unique dirty quality when matured in a sherry cask or a quality ex-bourbon cask. These come alive and take you on that unique Campbeltown journey to somewhere else. A distant town, dropped onto a remote peninsula, often shrouded in rain and a sense of isolation. It’s a place where Campbeltown whisky can take you unlike any other.
This Glen Scotia formed part of the September 2018 Scotch Malt Whisky Society outturn. Distilled on 6th May 2002, it was bottled at 15 years of age from an ex-bourbon barrel at 56.8%. An outturn of 226 bottles, this was around £75 upon release before selling out promptly.
SMWS 93.94 The Final Trawl – review
Colour: spun sugar
On the nose: apples and smoked hickory wood provide an inviting invitation. It’s woken up in the bottle after a fairly timid first impression the other day. Now there is a coastal aspect and brine quality. An earthiness followed by coconut cream – no scrub that – coconut ice, a green herbal tea quality and fennel. The smoke swirls then dissipates revealing white chocolate, lemon peel, vanilla popcorn, pineapple and wine gums. Worn leather, button mushrooms and beech wood with a tinge of redness. Water reveals a creaminess and gorse.
In the mouth: more of the smoke and that earthy nature, a fruit sugariness and a pleasing creamy finish. Returning, there’s a saltiness or salted caramel, tablet, gem lettuce and a chewy dark toffee. Cocoa on the body, but there’s still a sense of wanting/expecting more. Adding water brings forth more smoke and a sooty ash quality with any hidden depths out of reach.
The more time I spent with the bottle the more I enjoyed the nose. The palate is a little less detailed and refined albeit the result is a very drinkable Glen Scotia. Just not one good enough to propel me to the shoreline of the whisky capital for now. Perhaps next month and a new outturn? It certainly has more to say than the recent Cadenhead’s 26 year old from the same distillery.