Bladnoch 20, Cow Label

The first two days of this week of reviews of bourbon cask malts were spent in the Speyside: at Dailuaine on Monday, and at Linkwood on Wednesday. Let’s now close out the week in the lowlands, at Bladnoch. This 20 yo was released in the early-mid 2010s, during the Raymond Armstrong-led heyday of the distillery. Under Raymond Armstrong, Bladnoch was a significant force in what, with hindsight, was the last gasp of the golden age of single malt whisky. They released whiskies, both their own and of casks from other distilleries, for the regular drinker. Their whiskies were priced well, did not come with any marketing flim-flam, and were usually of a high quality. This was true both of their independently bottled and directly sold whiskies on offer from their Bladnoch forum (I think I might still have one Caol Ila 25 left) and of their own releases. Many of their releases of Bladnoch’s whisky were single casks, but they didn’t always mark this information on the labels. And the way to know if many of these releases were sherry matured or bourbon matured was by checking to see if the label featured sheep (sherry) or cows (bourbon). See here for a review of a 19 yo cow label. This 20 yo cow label is one of the very last Bladnochs left on my shelves (I still have two bottles of a 12 yo sherry cask). Let’s get into it.

Bladnoch 20, Cow Label (55%; bourbon cask; from my own bottle)

Nose: A lovely blend of toasted oak, malt and lemon. Some cereal in there too. With time the sweeter fruit from the palate emerges here as well. Okay, let’s see what water does. A few drops and the oak gets pushed back a bit as the fruit turns muskier with pineapple and makrut lime emerging.

Palate: Comes in as indicated by the nose but there’s a burst of fruit as I swallow (peach). Approachable at full strength with thick texture. As it sits the oak gets a bit too talkative but the fruit expands as well—the peach is joined by berries—and the whole gets a bit sweeter. With more time the lemon turns to lemon peel. Water pushes the oak back here as well and emphasizes the citrus—the musky fruit from the nose doesn’t quite follow through here though it’s palpable in the background.

Finish: Long. The oak tingles as the fruit subsides. Develops as on the palate with time. The musky fruit emerges more fully at the very end with water, bringing a bit of custard with it.

Comments: No fireworks here; just lovely bourbon cask whisky. Ah, Bladnoch: those were the last innocent years of the single malt boom.

Rating: 88 points.



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