My last two reviews have been of long-forgotten samples of bourbon cask whiskies released in 2010-2011 and, given how much I enjoyed those Aberlours (here and here), I figured I might as well keep that trend going. Here now is a review of a Bladnoch 18, distilled in 1992 and bottled by Chieftain’s in 2011 for my old friends in California, K&L. This was a more innocent time at K&L: Driscoll’s hype machine had not been cranked up to 13 yet and the hit rate for their cask selections was pretty good. It’s probably the case that the latter was true largely because more quality casks were available to independents then; and it’s also probably the case that the former was true because the latter was true. That is to say, the noise seems to have increased steadily over the years in inverse proportion to quality and value. Anyway, this Bladnoch, distilled before the Armstrong era at Bladnoch (now also ended), was rather good indeed and at $89.99 it was an excellent value. I’d meant to buy a second bottle but never got around to it. Thankfully, I saved 6 ounces from the middle of the bottle for future reference. Even more thankfully, that sample did not go flat in the intervening years. Let’s get to it.
Bladnoch 18, 1992 (55.3%; Chieftain’s for K&L; bourbon hogshead #4195; from a reference sample from my own bottle)
Nose: Toasted oak, cereals, candied lemon peel and a mellow grassiness to start. Gets maltier as it sits and the citrus gets muskier. With water there’s some pastry crust but the fruit gets washed out a bit.
Palate: Exactly as promised by the nose, with maybe a bit more oaky (but not tannic) bite.Nice, oily mouthfeel: it really coats the tongue. With time the citrus expands and a bit of apricot shows up as well, adding richness. Water messes up the mouthfeel and in general tamps the good stuff down.
Finish: Long. The musky fruit expands and lingers alongside the toasted oak. Gets more peppery as it goes. The finish survives the water the best.
Comments: This is not particularly complex (and wasn’t when the bottle was on the go either) but, like the recently reviewed Aberlours, this is pure bourbon cask goodness: excellent balance of malt and fruit and toasted oak. I think it just edges those Aberlours.
Rating: 88 points.