Bladnoch is a whisky I want to like more than I actually do. Everyone has taste preferences, and whilst I’m usually highly agnostic, I’ve yet to find an official bottling from this Lowland distillery that’s totally floated my boat. Indeed, the current official range from the ‘new’ Bladnoch has actively dissuaded me – it’s a bizarre mix of peculiar cask finishes and over-priced limited editions. Perhaps in a decade when the newly produced spirit from Bladnoch has come of age things will change? But, for the time being at least, the distillery’s output (drawn from older stocks) sadly leaves me rather cold. Thank heavens for independent bottlers.
Cadenhead’s have bottled several well-aged Bladnochs over the last couple of years. The most recent (bottled this summer) was, a solid drop of 26 year old hailing from 1992. Two years earlier, in February 2016 they produced a 1990 25 year old – it stands as one of the best examples of Bladnoch I’ve tasted in quite a long time.
The bottling was matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead (producing 264 bottles at an ABV of 50.7%). It is surprisingly still available at the Cadenhead’s shops in Milan, Italy and Odense, Denmark. Though you’ll get the better price of €130 via the Milan outlet – around €100 cheaper than the official 25 year old ‘Talia’ - which was originally available in two flavours of finish – new oak (WTF - seriously?!) and port pipe. You’ll still see a variety of Cadenhead’s Bladnochs at auction – often for little more than their original retail price – on the strength of recent releases I’d suggest they’re worth a look if you’re in the market for some well-aged Lowland whisky.
Nose: Out of the bottle a little tight in the glass – but opening quickly and expansively. A wide array of fruit – lime, lemon, passion fruit and nectarine. This grows ever more tropical with patient resting – mango and pineapple added for a near riot of bright juiciness. Trademark Bladnoch grassiness/floralness is certainly in play – cut stems, buttercups and fresh linen. There’s a sourness here – partly from the citrus elements, partly from some obvious maturity – brass polish. A few drops of dilution adds rose water, milk chocolate and some pink grapefruit.
Taste: Oily, fulsome and rather sharp on the arrival – a syrupy delivery of bright polished lemons, apricot, mango, ripe melon and banana. This really is particularly fruity. Age and good cask selection shines through here – polish, well-integrated vanilla pods and gentle spicing (pepper). Pressed flowers, reeds, flax and golden hay provide both freshness as well as a reminder that this is in fact a Lowlander. The addition of water, similarly to the nose brings out tartness and sourness – plenty of lemon zest and squeezed grapefruit juice.
Finish: Medium with sweet and sour fruits, cracked pepper, menthol and some underlying vegetalness - damp autumn leaves.
No messing around with wine casks or strange virgin oak finishes here – this Cadenhead’s Bladnoch 25 year old has opted for a straight-forward, unadulterated quality ex-bourbon maturation – and it has worked wonders. The central Bladnoch profile is supported by plenty of quality cask interaction and vibrant, fresh fruitiness – and neither feels overwrought despite a quarter decade of maturation. Delicious and characterful – a far cry from the distillery’s current official line up.
But don't take our word for it..
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