Bladnoch (Pronounced: BLADnoch)
54°51'29.2068 N, 4°27'33.2676 W
Ladyburn, Glen Flagler, Springbank, Arran
Loch Ma Berry
1 wash still, 1 spirit still
250,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Raymond Armstrong (since 1994)
Bladnoch, Wigtownshire, DG8 9AB, Scotland
Yes - and they also have a whisky school
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) Bladnoch is one of the last three remaining active Lowland distilleries.
Together with Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie it's among the last survivors of a family of dozens of Lowland distilleries. Rosebank which was closed around the same time seems far removed from ever being reopened. However, if you check out the New Projects page you'll see that they may get company soon...
2) Bladnoch distillery has 11 'dunnage' warehouses.
3) Bladnoch has six washbacks made of Oregon pine - but only three of those are actually used.
4) The Bladnoch distillery is the Southernmost malt whisky distillery in Scotland.
5) Rumour has it that production at Bladnoch was temporarily put on hold in 2008 to help cut costs.
Bladnoch 14yo 1989/2003 (53.6%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bourbon barrel, 210 bottles)
Nose: Very distinctive. I was quite sure I smelled yoghurt in there and the other tasters agreed.
Then I got milk. It was a bit malty as well, growing sweeter with time.
also got some wonderful organics after ten minutes. What a fabulous nose!
Taste: Unfortunately, the taste wasn't quite as complex and appealing as the nose.
Soap. Bitterness drops off after five minutes. After enough time, it has a beautiful body.
Score: 84 points - nice and chewy. We decided to nickname this 'The Dairy Malt'.
Bladnoch 12yo 1991/2003 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Autumn/Winter).
Nose: Oy... Grainy and oily. Cheap vinegar? Yeast? Rotting hay & other 'farmy' aroma's.
The good thing is that this has a lot of nose - the bad thing is that it's not my style.
Faint organics. Over time, the nose settles down. This is unlike anything else I know.
Taste: Odd. Sweetish. Beer-like and a little sparkly. Rotten peanut? Bitter in the finish.
Score: 75 points - this is an average malt in my book; simply not enough character.
I guess I'll need some Lowlanders on the malt-market shelves, but not this one.
Bladnoch 1992/2002 (58.5%, James MacArtur's Old Master's, Cask #717).
Nose: Clean. Fresh. Dry and spicy at first. Hey, is that a faint hint of peat? Soft fruits as well.
Nutty - hazelnuts? Italian Christmas bread. Pleasant. Great development. Remains relatively light.
Too bad some oily notes slip in after a while. Sweeter and more alcoholic after adding some water.
Taste: Light, sweet and fruity at cask strength. Pine? Faint liquorice. Hold the water on this one.
Hint of smoke. Strangely enough the burn grows stronger with some water - not in a good way.
Score: 82 points - lot 'fresher' than the Connoisseurs Choice bottlings I tried.
Bladnoch 1988/2001 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice).
Nose: Hmm... Fresh and smooth. Malt. Light with fruity overtones. Intriguing.
Soft, early fruits. Strawberries? Apples - Granny Smith? Weak organics.
Not a lot of volume but very pleasant development over time.
Taste: Ooh... Not so nice at first. Menthol? Growing sweeter with time. Wet wood.
A powerful peppery prickle in the centre that lasts very long. Dry finish.
Score: 79 points - almost makes it to my hitlist but the taste lacks depth.
Bladnoch 11yo 1988/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Bourbon cask #42003).
Nose: Grainy and a little lemony - becoming fruitier and nuttier with time. Not very powerful.
Sweetish. It presents an ever changing parade of accents, but does so in a whispering voice.
Taste: Fruity and nutty start. Very nice, although the nuttiness evolves into an oily centre.
Citrus overtones. On the other hand, the palate becomes grittier and ends in a dry, flat finish.
Score: 77 points - better than average, but not the best young Bladnoch I ever tried.
Bladnoch 1987/1999 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice).
Nose: Quite oily. Malty with a whiff of pepper. Citrus? Growing sweeter. Smooth.
Hints of smoke and fruits after fifteen minutes. Seems impressive but is actually a bit shallow.
Taste: Yuck... Oily as well. Menthol freshness again. Interesting development over time.
Fruity. Gingerbread. Pine? Something sourish that might hint at a bad sherry cask?
Score: 74 points - a little oil spill in your glass...
Bladnoch 1987/1999 (58.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle).
Nose: Sweet and lemony with some heather and flower nectar. Some organics as well.
Hey, I also found something slightly medicinal - very exciting. Very good at just 12 years.
Taste: Smooth and, again, lemony. And hey, a decent dose of peat as well after a while.
Score: 85 points - pretty much in line with Davin's and Olivier's 86 points and Serge's 87 points.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Bladnoch Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Bladnoch page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Bladnoch expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide).
2000 - Six years after Bladnoch was purchased by Raymond Armstrong
the production was started in December, on the very brink of the new millennium. No bottlings were released at this point, though.
2003 - Raymond Armstrong releases the first new (official) bottlings from Bladnoch; first a 15yo expression and a while later a 13yo (one at 40% and another at 55%). These were filled from old casks from the UDV period.
2008 - The first bottlings from stocks laid down by Raymond Armstrong were released; three 6yo expressions.
One of those releases was matured in sherry casks, two of them in bourbon casks. One of those was peated.
The Bladnoch distillery was built on the banks of the river
Bladnoch in 1817 by Thomas McClelland and remainded in the
hands of the McClelland / McLelland family until it was closed
in 1938. The family (who was also responsible for rebuilding
the distillery in 1871) owned Bladnoch for over a century...
After the closure of 1938 Bladnoch moved from one owner to
the other for almost two decades before it was brought back
to life again in 1956 by the Bladnoch Distillery Ltd.; a company
that was acquired by Ian Fisher in 1964. The number of stills
was increased from two to four in 1966, just two years later.
The distillery was purchased by Inver House Distillers Ltd., (a subsidiary of Publicker Industries Ltd. in the USA) in 1973 who sold it to Arthur Bell & Sons plc. in 1983. Ownership converted to United Distillers in 1985 before Bladnoch fell silent and was converted to a heritage center in 1993.
That wasn't the end of the Bladnoch malt whisky distillery though...
Irishman Raymond Armstrong managed to buy Bladnoch from United Distillers (predecessors of Diageo) in 1994. It took quite some time to get the whole operation back into working order; a large portion of the plant and equipment had been removed when it was closed down in 1993, only the stills and washbacks remained intact. Fortunately, Raymond managed to overcome the various difficulties; in November 2000 the first spirit of the new millennium flowed from the stills at Bladnoch.
Not a lot, though... One of UD's conditions for the sale
of Bladnoch was that the production would not exceed
100,000 litres of whisky per year. That is more than
enough whisky to drink yourself silly, but not really a
lot compared to the 1,300,000 litres of malt whisky
that Bladnoch produced each year in the late 1980s.
That's why Bladnoch distillery only has two working
stills these days. The maximum - theoretical - output
of Bladnoch now is 250,000 litres of alcohol per year,
but it's not clear if they will ever reach that again...
The new owner of Bladnoch distillery, Raymond Armstrong, was born in Northern Ireland.
As you may know, Ireland has its own tradition of whisk(e)y distillation - which is quite different from the Scottish method. That's why some people wondered if Raymond would make any changes to the traditional 'Lowland' method of whisky distillation. That's why I asked Raymond if they would be producing a 'fully Scottish' malt whisky at Bladnoch - i.e. a whisky made from Scottish barley. This is what Raymond told me;
'A "fully Scottish" malt from a distillery that is much closer to Ireland than to the Highlands or even Glasgow; from a distillery that up until the
mid nineteen fifties used the Irish style of triple distilling and like Irish distillers doesn't use peated malt; from a distillery that between 1911 and 1937 was owned by Royal Irish Distillers of Belfast; from a
distillery situated in remote Galloway were its' inhabitants are known in Scotland as the Galloway Irish and where in the last century Gaelic was spoken. To be sure I'll be producing a "fully Scottish" malt!'.
Well, that's cleared up then ;-)
I also asked Raymond about the how and why of buying a Scotch whisky distillery...
'I purchased Bladnoch in October of 1994. United Distillers had mothballed it in June 1993 along with Rosebank, Pittyvaich and Balmenach following the hostile take-over bid by Guinness of Bells and DCL. I was in South West Scotland looking for a holiday home and the distillery cottage was empty. Its location just 30 minutes drive from the ferry to Ireland was ideal.'
'When I first asked UD to sell it they were a little surprised. At the time I was able to justify the price which as usual I didn't have, by the possibility of converting some of the stone buildings into additional holiday accommodation to rent.'
'We have fishing rights and planning permission for caravanning and camping. So it was sold to me as property not as a distillery. If the truth be known I got the title deeds and my bank manager got the debt. One of the conditions of sale was that it should not be used as a distillery.'
Well, as we know, Raymond managed to get past that condition after a while. And Bladnoch even went further; not only was the distillery revived, Bladnoch now has its own 'whisky school ' these days - just like Springbank in Campbeltown and Bruichladdich on Islay. Now that these malt whisky distilleries employ so many people that are willing to pay for the privilege of working there (not even child labourers do that), I would have expected the prices of the whisky that was produced with the help of volunteers to drop - but oddly enough they haven't yet ;-)
Is the distillery or