It sometimes amazes me what a well thought out brand restructuring and refresh can achieve. Memories can be incredibly short and forgiving when things are done right - quite recently I was talking to a group of enthusiasts who had never heard of Glen Scotia’s previous brand incarnation – the infamous neon highland bulls. Now consigned to the dustbin, the distillery’s range has probably garnered more fans over the last couple of years than over the entire past decade – such is the strength of combining high quality liquid with an understandable and appealing brand proposition. Luminous bovines always felt more Chernobyl than Campbeltown.
As well as recognising that consumers’ purchases decisions are based on more than just being the stand-out bottle on the shelf, the distillery’s range of bottles has diversified. The core is comprised of Double Cask, 15 year old, Victoriana, 18 year and 25 year old, whilst earlier this year Glen Scotia was also introduced into global travel retail with the NAS 1832 Campbeltown and 16 year old. We’re gradually delivering you reviews of all of these bottlings – today is the turn of the 15 year old.
Glen Scotia 15 year old is described as being aged solely American oak casks (so ex-bourbon). I’ve read a few of my fellow commentators suggest that like the Double Cask this has also had a 6 month refill sherry finish, but I can’t find any information out there to either confirm or deny this. From my own tasting notes, whilst there’s sweetness, I’m not detecting it being sherry-driven. Anyhow, it’s bottled at 46% ABV and is available for around £55. Post review note: Master Blender Michael Henry has confirmed that a 1st fill oloroso sherry finish for just two months is utilised here for 'added sweetness'.
Nose: An appealing and intriguing mixture of reduced fruits (apricots particularly), honey, and gentle smoke – coastal (smoked kipper and a touch of brine) and inland (chalky ashes). Running throughout the nose is burnt caramel and patisserie pastries – these are tempered by tart lemon peels and grapefruit juice, alongside deep earthiness – mushroom – and sharp minerality. The addition of water brings out further fruity character – quite jams and marmalade – but reduces all the other facets into a rather incoherent morass. Stick to it at 46%.
Taste: A good arrival that brings minerality, citrus and earthiness together in a combination that works nicely – tang and scorched earth. Apricots lead off again, but this time are joined by spicing – ginger and pepper. Smoke is somewhat pungent and dirty ala a good Campbeltown whisky – ozone, shoe polish, brine, salt and iodine. Water is slightly transformative, adding ash to the arrival, juicy and tropical fruits to the mid palate and chalky mineral smoke to the back palate. Interesting – but the detriment to the nose is too great to offset this curiosity.
Finish: Short to medium with tangy citrus, sappy woodland oak, touches of iodine and pepper.
Glen Scotia 15 year old is a tasty and evocative Campbeltown whisky. If you’ve started your malt journey, but are yet to experience the Campbeltown style there’s a few options for you from the three active distillery’s left in the region – this bottling should certainly be on your exploratory list – it’s quite the step up from the NAS Double Cask. There’s a lot of charm and character here – it’s rather like a mogwai – cute and playful, but best avoid getting it wet.