Glen Scotia (Pronounced: glen SCOH-sja)
Crosshill Loch and/or Campbeltown Loch
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
750,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd.
High Street, Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland
Yes, but supply has been irregular in recent years
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2000 - Some years after the ownership of Glen Scotia was transferred to Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd. (who also owned the Loch Lomond distillery, as well as the defunct Littlemill distillery) their staff takes over production. The stills were actually fired up again for the first time by people from Springbank in 1999.
2005 - The old 14yo OB that had been available in the 1990's is replaced by a 12 years old official bottling.
2006 - a more heavily peated version of Glen Scotia is released as a 6 years old malt whisky, vintage 1999.
That means that these stocks were laid down by the Springbank crew when they restarted the stills that year.
2007 - Another peaty expression of the Glen Scotia malt whisky was released in 2007 at an age of seven years.
2011 - the six washbacks at Glen Scotia are replaced by six new ones made out of stainless steel.
The Glen Scotia distillery has been operating in the shadow of its
more famous neighbour Springbank for almost two centuries. Well,
I'm not really sure if Springbank was actually much more famous
than Glen Scotia in the distant past, but it was true in the 1990's.
When I wrote the latest update of this distillery profile (March '09)
Springbank had been mothballed for six months. When the news
about the temporary closure arrived around half a year ago, they
announced that Springbank would probably be closed for circa two
years ago - but that was before the credit crisis hit Europe with full
force in the autumn of 2008. It's conceivable that this will influence
the plans of Springbank owners and possibly delay the reopening.
1) After Glen Catrine took over the Glen Scotia distillery in 1994 it was mothballed for five years.
2) During the 1990's Glen Scotia's 'standard' bottling was a 14 years old expression - a fairly unusual age.
A twelve years old official bottling of the Glen Scotia malt whisky was released in 2005.
3) Just like its neighbour Springbank, Glen Scotia is one of a few distilleries located in-between town buildings.
4) For those of you that are planning a visit to (some of) the whisky regions of Scotland, Campbeltown may seem like
an attractive destination because of its location relatively close to the airports Glasgow and Edinburgh. However, in reality it's quite a long journey along the Kintyre peninsula. So, it would be wise to spend the night in town.
The highlight for me was spending a night in the hotel where Alfred Barnard had slept over a century ago.
5) In 2007 Glen Scotia only produced circa 100,000 liters of alcohol - so they were operating far from their maximum
capacity. This means that in recent years Glen Scotia has produced roughly the same amount of whisky as small distilleries like Bladnoch, Edradour and Kilchoman - the smallest distilleries in Scotland. In order to bring Glen Scotia on
full steam again, it would seem that some financial injections are required. ) Things hadn't changed much in 2011; Glen Scotia still used less than 20% of its maximum capacity and only 130,00 litres of alcohol were produced.
Glen Scotia 33yo 1977/2010 (57%, A.D. Rattray, Sherry Hogshead, C#985, 195 Bts.)
Nose: Rich, sweet and overwhelming. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and other "speculaas" cookie spices.
Immidiately after I added water, some subtle organics emerged. A whiff of rubber.
Tertiary fruits, wood and some smoke as well. A very classic profile at cask strength. Really quite spectacular.
Taste: Woody, fruity and smoky - just as classic as the nose. Medium dry finish with a decent amount of tannins.
Score: 93 points - this whisky is really right up my alley; a very classic sherry monster.
Glen Scotia 17yo 1992/2009 (59.4%, A. D. Rattray Cask Collection, Sherry Butt #1, 670 Bts.)
Nose: Loads of sherry influence. Smoky and quite rich. Tertiary fruits emerge after a few seconds.
Over time the smoke starts to dominate everything else. I like the profile, but it's slightly unrefined.
Subtle organics after ten minutes. Hint of something musty. Very little distillery character left it seems...
Taste: Heavy fruity and smoky profile; loads of character. The tannins grow stronger towards the finish.
Buysman burnt caramel. Loads of smoke in the centra as well as the powerful finish. Excellent whisky...
Score: 84 points - but one could argue that the cask overpowers the distillery character.
Glen Scotia 16yo 1992/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid for Ermuri Berlin, C#92225, Rum casks Aced)
Nose: Ah! Polished and classy. Polished wood and some exotic spices. Perhaps a hint of pineapple?
A beautiful profile, although this whisky is perhaps a tad uni-dimensional.
Taste: Tasted like a whisky that was bottled decades ago. Austere, but full and satisfying.
A harsh, sourish finish keeps it out of the upper 80's. A great profile on the surface, but it lacks some substance.
Score: 83 points - here's an 'aced' bottling I'm fairly fond of for a change. Actually very decent.
Glen Scotia 32yo 1975/2008 (46%, Chieftain's Choice, C#2191, 78 Bts.)
Nose: Hey, a peaty one! Fairly subtle, though. Chloride, sweaty notes and other organics - quite pleasant.
Then some light fruits emerge. Growing complexity. More and more farmy notes emerge over time.
Taste: Relatively gentle start before the very soft peat emerges. Slowly powering up to a dry centre.
I found some light fruits in the long finish which grows very dry in the end. Weird but I like it...
Score: 89 points - Approaches gold territory in my book because it's so unique. But please note that this is just in my book; most other jurors of the MM Awards 2008 put it in the lower 80's or even the 70's.
Glen Scotia 30yo 1975/2006 (47.5%, The Whisky Fair, Rum barrel)
Nose: Wow! Something chemical - rubber but not quite. 'Slime' playstuff? Evolving molasses sweetness.
Hint of rhubarb. Over time it grows farmier and more complex. A feast for the nose.
Drops away after some fifteen minutes though.
Taste: Bugger... This has the same problem as the Tomintoul; the palate doesn't back up the nose.
Hint of peat? If feels quite hot and feisty - but has little of the complexity that the nose suggests.
Score: 83 points - bonce again the palate doesn't quite deliver on the nasal promise.
Glen Scotia 14yo 1991/XXXX (61,6%, Adelphi, C#1071, 255 Bts.)
Nose: Light and slightly soapy at first in the nose. Oy... Quite a shock at the MM Awards 2006.
Eventually it grew and grew on me and its uniqueness lifted it to 85 points over time.
Taste: Weird and chemical on the palate. Petrol? Turpentine? Rubber? Something faintly coastal?
I'm afraid I got stuck at 75 points for a long time, although I couldn't deny it's an interesting whisky.
A second tasting confirmed it - this is no 'easy' whisky but worth a (thin) silver medal in my book.
Score: 86 points - It's weird but I actually like it - given time. ... Quite a bite if you take a big sip...
Glen Scotia 1992/2003 (62.1%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength, Cask #89.92, refill sherry hogshead)
Nose: Rich and spicy with the sherry becoming more obvious quickly. Polished. Smoke.
Very nice, but not terribly complex. Some more organics after a minute. Clay? Stock?
Taste: Big and sweet, fruity and sherried. What a fabulous palate! Nice woody notes.
It grows a tad dry, dusty and noticably flatter towards the finish, but feels very good.
Very hot. It became a tad fruitier after I added water. A nice dram that proves my point.
Score: 84 points - on closer inspection it's not quite as spectacular as I first thought.
Glen Scotia 9yo 1991/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, D. 11/02/'91, Btl. 29/01/'01, Bourbon casks #222/223)
Nose: Changed notably since last time. Soft, oily/grassy start, then a strong odeur of paint thinner.
This is intertwined with strong ginger notes and some sweetness. Slightly medicinal.
Mellows out after a few minutes, but it remains more interesting than pleasant for a long while.
But after ten more minutes there's a nice surprise of fruit, nuts and even some peat. Strange, but nice.
Taste: Bourbonish and a little sparkly. Eucalyptus. Some peat. Salt in the finish.
Band aids? About the same time the nose improved, the taste picked up as well.
Score: 81 points - the 'Fifteen Minute Malt'. It really needs some time and close inspection.
However, this malt has a lot of layers and aspects. Put in the effort and you will be rewarded.
It's a bit like an 'Islay Light' that should do very well in the summer.
Glen Scotia 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Bourbon cask #211)
Nose: Soft and a little grainy. Hints of oil and paint thinner. Pine? Air freshener or shampoo?
Ginger? Quite strange - smells more like a grain whisky than a malt whisky, if you ask me.
Taste: Thin and deconstructed. Something faintly medicinal. Eucalyptus? Utterly forgettable.
Score: 66 points - far cry from its slightly older sibling. An interesting nose, but not very 'likable'.
Hardly a perfect specimen of a Glen Scotia - the 14yo is a much safer (and smoother) bet.
Glen Scotia 14yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999, 70cl)
Nose: Hmmm - has it lost its magic in the two weeks since I opened the bottle? Weak start.
Vegetables? Furniture wax. Then some fruitier notes emerge, followed by peat and a pinch of salt.
Ah, it just needed a minute. The volume picks up soon - and so does the complexity.
Taste: Smooth and accessible. Sweet. Some fruity notes. Smoked ham?
Strong, malty center with some sherry characteristics. String beans?
Quite subtle and elegant. Very good mouth-feel. Long finish.
Score: 83 points - it definitely needed some time.
Glen Scotia 12yo Full Proof (54%, OB, 75cl, Bottled in the late 1980's, limited edition for Italy.
Nose: Light fruits. Faint organics struggling with a nutty undercurrent. Sweet & spicy.
Very promising, but it drops off after a minute. Water helps just a little. Lemon? Chloride?
Taste: Smooth start, quickly growing drier. Flat and a tad woody. Gritty finish. Tired.
No significant improvement with some water. A pleasant burn, but little personality.
Score: 75 points - a decent but average single malt. Given my personal preference for overproof whiskies I've got to say I expected a little bit more. It's quite an interesting whisky but there are too many grainy odeurs distracting me from the heart of the malt. I liked the 14yo bottlings released at 40% in the late 1990's better.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Scotia 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 Glen Scotia page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Glen Scotia expressions that were 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.)
Anyway, let's get back to the history of Glen Scotia. That history started in 1832 when the Galbraith family founded the distillery. Glen Scotia remained in the family until 1919 when it was sold to
West Highland Malt Distillers. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in 1924, after which Duncan MacCallum (a director of the company) took over Glen Scotia. The distillery was closed in 1928 and Duncan committed suicide by
drowning himself in Campbeltown Loch - the lake that was especially created to serve as the water source of the distillery.
He wasn't the only Campbeltown distiller to feel the effects of politics on the other end of the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1920 and 1933 the United States suffered from the prohibition, during which the manufacture, transportation, import,
export and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Before the start of the prohibition, Campbeltown (the name of the town, but also of the surrounding region) was known as 'The Whisky Capital of the World'. During its heyday, more than thirty whisky distilleries were active in the Campbeltown region.
These days, only two or three of these distilleries are still active.
One of the reasons for this sharp decline
was the fact that most distilleries in the Campbeltown
region had a strong focus on quantity instead of quality. Thanks to strong international demand
(especially from the USA) the distilleries could easily sell their entire output, so there was little
need to improve their whisky. This attitude proved to be a problem when the demand declined
rapidly after prohibition was introduced in America and a big recession hit markets worldwide.
One of the first victims of the collapse of the whisky market was the (old) Glengyle distillery.
This distillery was built around 1873 by William Mitchell after a fight with his brother John at
the Springbank distillery. Glengyle was closed in 1925 and almost all other Campbeltown
distilleries followed within a few years. However, after a slumber that lasted three quarters
of a century, the Mitchell family (still owners of Springbank) revived Glengyle again in 2004.
Meanwhile, at Glen Scotia, malt whisky production was resumed in 1933...
In 1954 the distillery was obtained by Hiram Walker, but it was sold on to A. Gillies & Co.
within a year. Next, A. Gillies & Co. became part of Amalgated Distillers Products in 1970.
Reconstruction occurred between 1979 and 1982, but Glen Scotia was closed again in 1984.
Production started again in 1989 when ADP was taken over by Gibson International, before
it stopped again in 1994 when it was taken over by Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd.
In 2000 staff from Loch Lomond distillery took over production at Glen Scotia.
Is the distillery or