Glen Scotia have their work cut out for them. Not only are they one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, but their location places them under the shadow of industry darlings Springbank. It must be hard competing with a distillery with that level of reputation and a veritable army of super-fans. But, nevertheless, I have a lot of admiration for Glen Scotia who rather than settling for the title of ‘Campbeltowns’ other distillery’ have come out fighting with a revitalised range and renewed brand proposition.
Since 2014 Glen Scotia have been part of the Loch Lomond Group. There’s some potted history prior to that involving Gibson’s Whisky, bonder and blender Glen Catrine and various private equity firms that, if you’re interested in, you’re better off reading on Scotchwhisky.com. However, if you’ve been watching the distillery since 2014 you’ll have noticed that its brand and positioning within the domestic and wider market has completely transformed. The rainbow coloured highland bull inspired bottles (which were anything but inspired) have been consigned to history, and a complete rebrand and simplification of the range has married tradition with modernity. In doing so, not only have Glen Scotia given themselves a platform to build from, they’ve also neatly slotted themselves into the wider range of Loch Lomond Group bottlings – looking and feeling naturally like one big happy family, rather than an industrial Skittles accident.
The gateway whisky to the Glen Scotia range is the Double Cask. Double Cask is an NAS that has been matured for an unspecified amount of time (though probably for less than 10 years as it’s an NAS right?) in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for up to 12 months. It’s bottled at a very decent 46% ABV and can be found for just a shy over £35 here in the UK.
Nose: Quite estery. Peaches to being with, marrying stone fruit with buttery biscuit (base), brioche buns and a wispy chalk-like smoke dust. There’s gentle vanilla (but it’s far from overwrought), porridge oats and a slight steeliness – that only in the background reveals some slight coppery hints of the youthfulness of this single malt. The addition of water adds earthiness into the equation, as well as further fruit – apricots and baked pears.
Taste: Viscous with some oiliness on arrival. Oats and malts are greeted by orange rind, prunes and raisins (the PX influence being much more prevalent in the mouth) and again with some earthy minerality. Smoke is more pronounced - part fresh with burnt logs and twigs - part more evocatively Campbeltown – steely, and slightly dirty/pungent. Water has a transformative effect – just a few drops really heightens the fruitiness levels, bringing out the stone fruits experienced on the nose in the form of pleasant syrupy tinned fruit salad.
Finish: Medium in length and transforming from sweet and sugar-dusted through sour and finally onto bitter spice – pepper.
Glen Scotia Double Cask is a solid entry into the wider distillery range. Whilst there are elements of youth in places, rather than going down the obvious route of masking these with a truck-load of vanilla, rich PX has been utilised quite well as an alternative. It adds both balance and sweetness, and jutaxpositions pleasantly against the natural steely/mineral elements. Reasonably priced for the quality and delivered with a proper ABV of 46%.