Despite reviews of whiskies from two Campbeltown distilleries—Springbank and Kilkerran—last week was not a Campbeltown whisky week. Instead, with Friday’s Lagavulin 2020 Feis Ile release it became a week of sherry cask whiskies. This week, however, is a Campbeltown week. But the whiskies are all from the third Campbeltown distilllery, the one no one ever gets very excited about: Glen Scotia. And to
double quadruple the theme it’ll also be a week of reviews of Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases of Glen Scotia, all from bourbon barrels.
I’ve not reviewed very many Glen Scotias. The first few were all indie releases and I liked them a lot, including a 20 yo bottled by Whiskybase’s Archives label and a 40 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland. Of late, however, I’ve mostly reviewed official releases, none of which have gotten me very excited. Let’s see if this SMWS series brings out the distillery’s most interesting qualities. We’ll start with the youngest and work our way up. This 11 yo is one the Society’s studiedly whimsical tasting panel decided to call “Aladdin’s Cave”. Let’s see if it turns out to be rich or exciting at all.
Glen Scotia 11, 2007 (57.6%; SMWS 93.118; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Not a whole lot happening at first beyond alcohol and oak. As it settles in the glass some lemon and hints of grease (machine shop) begin to emerge along with some grassiness. More in this vein as it airs and then there’s some salt and some mineral oil. Quite austere. With a few drops of water it gets surprisingly creamy with hints of butterscotch as well. After a while there are hints of sweeter fruit as well.
Palate: As promised by the development on the nose: all the austere, mineral notes along with lemon and then quite a bit of soot as I swallow.. Nice texture and more approachable than I expected it would be at this strength based on the initial experience of the nose. On the second sip there’s more salt and some carbon paper/graphite. More lemon with time but otherwise quite consistent. Okay, let’s add some water. Now there’s more lemon—and it’s a little sweeter—and much less of the soot and mineral notes.
Finish: Long. It’s all on salt and soot here. The lemon hangs out here too with time. As on the palate with water (less salt here now).
Comments: Very classic Campbeltown profile, which is to say very austere and unsexy but very good. The initial impression from the nose made me think it was going to be oak-forward but thankfully that did not prove to be the case. I can’t say I get much of the sweet fruit the SMWS tasters found and in general this is not what I would think of as “Aladdin’s Cave”.
Rating: 86 points.