We don’t review many festival releases here at Malt, simply because like our readership, we never have the opportunity to own and open such bottles.
We’ve stood in the occasional queue during the Spirit of Speyside festival and the Campbeltown equivalent to acquire a celebration bottle. There’s nothing better than purchasing a commemorative release and then sharing it with the rest of your group during the festival. It cuts down the cost and gives everyone a moment to remember. Plus it downsizes any risk attached to poor festival releases – a trend that can only grow given the demand for anything sealed and with an official label on the front.
Take for instance the 2017 Glenfarclas festival release, which was a tender age and an eye-watering £115. A very limited number were available each day from the distillery – from memory 50 – and with a limit of 2 per person, you can imagine how quickly these were snapped up. For the record, being fortunate, I gave a bottle away to someone further down the queue who missed out. That’s what we do and helps limit the majority of these releases ending up online.
However, it is a losing battle. Even today a leading auction site has gone live with almost 10,000 bottles. Yes, you read that correctly. T-e-n T-h-o-u-s-a-n-d for their latest monthly sale. Utter madness, gold rush fever and insert whatever you want right here. Clearly, the only winners in whisky currently are the distilleries and auctioneers. Pure greed and insanity seem to rule the roost currently.
The whole thing has become a pantomime where no one wants to get off and spoil the ride. That moment of clarity and common sense has escaped many who reel in bottles with artificially inflated values. Only then to put these on the auction merry-go-round and for what? A quick win, a brief moment of satisfaction, or hopefully a marginal break-even escaping act. Then to repeat again and again until the whole thing crumbles.
It struck a few of us during our Speyside residence that the locals were extremely adept at snapping up bottles and obviously engaging in a nice little earner. Out of sight of the taxman but for how long? For many, it’s become a second business and an unhealthy addiction. Where any bottle is snapped up in rapid fashion such as the recent Glenugie. The real whisky drinker and enthusiast is left to either pay the inflated asking price or think what might have been.
Glen Scotia has never been collectable or fashionable, despite my love of those dayglo designs from a few years ago. The runt of the Campbeltown litter, the distillery deserves better and quite rightly celebrates its existence during the regional festival. We never made it along to the distillery during opening hours this year, instead content to do our own historical tour of this iconic town. The festival bottling was already marked out as an affordable sipper. Sitting nicely alongside the affordable trio of Kilkerran, Longrow and Hazelburn.
Released in healthy numbers meant everyone over the course of the festival, managed to purchase what they wanted. No scrambles or queuing for ages to purchase that solitary bottle. Scotia went that step further and ensured their festival bottle had a release beyond the confines of Campbeltown that retailed for an affordable price. A chance to try something different and stimulating for a price that doesn’t render you immobile for the remainder of the month.
This Glen Scotia was distilled in 2008 before being finished for 6 months in ruby port hogsheads. Bottled at a robust 57.8% strength you can still pick this one up online for under £50 on Amazon.
Glen Scotia 2008 Ruby Port Festival Edition – review
Colour: Honey with a touch of rose.
On the nose: Peaty at first and then honey glazed ham. A well rubbed brass ornament with a hint of cherry in the background. Starch and oddly cauliflower, followed by Kiwi fruit and a tea leaf aspect. Milk chocolate as well, caramel and memories of a cheap rosé wine.
In the mouth: Less interesting on the palate with peat and chocolate flavours, clay and a buttery nature. Some cherry and a metallic aspect but rather limited.
A solid if unspectacular dram with a twist. A chance to experience a rare cask finish of this nature, which in only 6 months has left its impression on a rugged peated spirit.
A fun enough festival drink to enjoy with friends in a sunkissed garden in Campbeltown. Priced at under £50 and still available at some retailers, there’s little to complain about.
Sample purchased at the Pot Still and there’s a commission link in this review.