For the last whisky review of the week, month and year let’s go all the way down to the lowlands of Scotland, to a distillery’s whose most famous recent proprietor liked to remind us is close to Ireland than to most of the other Scottish distilleries: Bladnoch.
This whisky was distilled and released in the era of that proprietor, the excellent Raymond Armstrong. Under Armstrong Bladnoch was a unicorn: a small producer that kept its prices down—both for its own releases and those of casks from other distilleries that it released for the Bladnoch forums—and didn’t engage in marketing malarkey. The good times eventually came to an end and the distillery was sold in 2014 or 2015. I’ve lost touch with it since then, as it got the predictable premium coat of paint from its new owners. But I still have a few bottles left of the Armstrong era. This release of their “Lightly Peated” label is one of them. I’ve previously reviewed a 9 yo from this series from 2001 that was a single bourbon cask. This one, featuring sheep on the label, as every Bladnoch fan of the era knows, is a sherry cask and is two years older. Let’s get into it.
Bladnoch 11, 2001, Lightly Peated (55%; sherry cask; from my own bottle)
Nose: Roasted malt, fresh orange peel and a little bit of wood smoke wafting around it all. As it sits the citrus transitions to lemon and the smoke gets a bit leafy. A few drops of water and the smoke recedes a bit and there’s a slight chalkiness along with the acid.
Palate: Leads with the citrus—lime here rather than lemon—and it’s deeper, oilier and a bit sweeter: a mix of peel and zest and juice. The texture is rich as well. The smoke is not very obvious here. With time the malt begins to come through more strongly—notes of milky cocoa—and there’s just a bit of powdered ginger, a hint of cracked pepper (that’s probably the smoke again). Okay, let’s add a drop or three of water. Water brings out wet stones, a lot of salt and the chalk that showed up on the nose.
Finish: Long. The citrus goes on for a while and picks up a lot of salt as it goes. The smoke comes back here as slightly bitter accents on the lime. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is not particularly complex whisky but it’s pretty flawless if you like this kind of profile. I wish it was still being made.
Rating: 87 points.