Glen Scotia have been going great guns not only in revitalising their range of whiskies, but also in actively engaging with the wider whisky community – both online and at shows. Gone are the days of attempting to carve out market share through the use of bright, alcopop style bottles - The distillery is now trying to play to the strength of combining high quality liquid with an understandable and appealing brand proposition. A much more successful tactic – especially as malt enthusiasts become ever more knowledgable and the range of choices available ever broader.
The distillery’s core range 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 Victoriana.
Glen Scotia Victoriana was released in 2015 as part of the distillery’s (much needed at the time) redesigned range. It’s composed of liquid that has been matured in ex-bourbon and then finished in heavily charred barrels. It’s bottled at 51.5% ABV – not quite cask strength in my book, but stronger than the other expressions in the range. It can be purchased from around £75.
Post review note: Loch Lomond's Master Blender Michael Henry got in touch to clarify the cask composition further: first maturation is all ex-bourbon mostly first fill with some refill. Casks are selected, vatted together and filled off into 30% first fill PX and 70% heavy charred American oak for a minimum 12 months finishing before being married together for 2 months prior to bottling.
Nose: A combination of the light – toffee apples, pineapple, mango and vanilla. With the dark – reduced fruits (blackberries and plums), heavily caramelised sugars, roasted nuts and charred wood smoke. Running throughout is gentle hint of coastalness – minerals and particularly salt. The addition of water adds sweetness (golden syrup) and heightens the perceptibility of oak (slightly polished). It feels like there might be a parcel of sherried whisky utilised in this single malt – perhaps some was previously matured in the heavily charred barrels? Regardless, there’s a lot of appealing fresh and crisp fruitiness here.
Taste: An oily and mouth coating arrival that starts with a delivery of rich creaminess (coffee grounds, crème brûlée, milk chocolate) and follows up with a punchy package of reduced and jammy fruits – tinned apricots, oranges and plenty of dark berries. There’s a real sense of both caramelisation and of roasting/charring. In the mid to back palate, there’s more tartness and steeliness – apples soaked in lime juice to prevent them discolouring, wet pebbles, aluminium cans and delicate chalky wood smoke. Reduction brings out both earthiness, some herbals (pine and mint) and plenty of fresh sappy oak – heavily spiced with pepper.
Finish: Medium in length with ashy, charred, spicy wood, burnt digestive biscuits and fading fruitiness.
Glen Scotia Victoriana is on somewhat of a tangent to many bottlings from this distillery. There’s very little of the Campbeltown ‘funk’ and pungency (though a slight sense of maritime remains) that one might expect from this region, and plenty of sugary fruits and cask-forward creaminess. Nevertheless, I find it to be largely successful - particularly on the nose which has immediate intriguing appeal. Those of you who are more wood adverse might struggle more with this – particular if reducing the ABV down from 51.5% - I found that water, whilst softening some elements, lead to a dominance of wood over spirit.
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