The final part of my Campbeltown trip is finally here. It’s been a heck of a day. Some amazing whiskies were tried and I experienced a lot of new aspects about whiskymaking here in Scotland, but now it’s finally time to go out with a bang! And what better way to end my Campbeltown expedition then at the Glen Scotia Distillery!
Now in terms of the distillery itself, looking on from the outside its very ordinary in some ways compared to the tucked away Springbank and the industrial looking Glengyle. Glen Scotia almost looks just like a big old apartment building, however Glen Scotia is anything but as ordinary as it looks on the outside as like with every good book, the inside matters the most. The distillery has done a lot of work to modernize its visitors centre since the first Campbeltown Malts Festival in 2014 and it looks really darn nice with some nice marble floors, polished oak cabinets holding some of the distilleries core range and exclusive single cask whiskies and a small cozy tasting area with a small table and high chairs.
For this last tour of the day, the small group we’re with is led by our guide Hector who acts as the Assistant Distillery Manager here at Glen Scotia. He’s quite a seasoned veteran in Campbeltown as he started his role at Glen Scotia a number of years back after spending his career working at Springbank Distillery. He’s also a very lively host to us who traveled all the way to the distillery and was happy to dive into almost every aspect of Glen Scotia’s whisky making operation.
We start the tour at the malt room where we’re shown the malt bins that Glen Scotia uses for barley storage as well as their malt mill, a Robert Boby make that’s also used at Glengyle as well as other distilleries like Ardbeg who didn’t already have a Porteus mill. For barley, Glen Scotia uses Concerto strain barley sourced from Glen Esk Maltings in the Scottish Highlands for all their production.
We then get a look at the mash tun, which can hold up to 20,000 litres of wash, as well as the distillery’s 6 stainless steel washbacks. Hector explained that the distillery went for stainless steel over wooden washbacks to maintain efficiency with batches and to nullify leakage problems that wooden washbacks would give you and thus don’t have to be replaced as often. Glen Scotia’s fermentation lasts for 72 hours compared to Springbank’s 114 hours in order to maintain a more desirable level of fruit and floral notes in the final product.
We are then taken to the two copper pot stills and the spirit safe. At this point we’re all given a wee taste of the unpeated new make spirit. It’s actually very fruity and not too harsh on the vegetal notes like some other mainland distilleries make spirits with some nice oiliness and floral notes. Hector told us that Glen Scotia usually produces peated malt and since we happened to be there during the unpeated spirit runs, which only occur at the distillery for 20% of their annual operating time, that’s why we ended up trying unpeated new make rather then the usual peated new make.
We are then taken outside to where we can see a drop off bin for spent grain. This grain is dropped into local farmers trucks which is then taken back to the farms to be used as feed for their livestock. We actually saw this bin in action before we started the tour and it’s very cool to see the level of community partnerships that distilleries in Campbeltown have with local farming!
And finally we’re lead into Warehouse #1, the dunnage warehouse, for the last warehouse tasting of the day. Let’s take a look at what was tried!
Glen Scotia 2000 FF Bourbon Cask #239
We start off with the oldest whisky of the day with a 19 year old first fill bourbon cask Glen Scotia. Sadly no origin of which bourbon distillery the cask came from. It’s bottled at 56.9% ABV.
Nose: Nice silky toffee and sea salt, anise, navel oranges, lemon oil, nice bread yeasts and brown sugar
Palate: Huge oily navel oranges and lemon tarts, big gingerbread, cocoa dust, silky vanilla and marzipan
Finish: Medium with gingerbread cookies, lemon squares and digestive cookies
Fantastic texture and pretty good complexity. I really love the gingerbread notes you get from older bourbon cask Glen Scotias and this one has that in droves along with some lovely marzipan, orange and biscuit notes! A great mature dram!
Glen Scotia 2006 First Fill Bourbon Cask #433
Next we go to a younger bourbon cask Glen Scotia, which happens to be Hector’s favourite of the trio! It’s a bit less mature at 13 years old and is slightly higher proofed at 57.8% ABV.
Colour: Dark Gold
Nose: Huge floral and roasted cereal notes, dry toffee, cherry blossom, leather, anise, orange oils and bright dry lemon
Palate: Massively oily and sweet, lots of caramel liqueur, chocolate, leather, licorice, chewy toffee after water added and then light ginger and allspice
Finish: Medium to Long and dry with soft allspice, ginger, lemon drops and fluffy pastry notes
Wonderful oiliness and lush toffee and black licorice abound in this cask! Not as massively long and complex as the 19 year but still as good with the boldness and the complexity!
Glen Scotia 2005 1st Fill Tawny Port Pipe Cask #413
This next one begins a trend of peated malts. The first is an ex-bourbon matured peated malt finished for 18 months in a first fill Tawny port pipe. It was peated to 44ppm of phenol and bottled at 57.8% ABV.
Colour: Rich Amber
Nose: Big silky leather with cardamom, allspices, blueberries, sea salt, not a lot of peat
Palate: Theres the peat! Big white pepper, dark plums, sea salt, grape tannins, ginger, cardamom, fennel, black tea
Finish: Medium to Long with spices, black fruits and black cherries
Great palate but a bit lacking on the nose and finish. The peat also isn’t super present until the palate and while there’s nice complex black fruits, spices and tea theres not a whole lot anything else. The mouthfeel and spirit quality definitely saves it though and makes it a very enjoyable dram for peated port cask lovers!
Glen Scotia 2007 Peated Wine 1st Fill Chateau Maurac Cask #0006
This next peated Glen Scotia uses a red wine cask, which is a bit unusual for this distillery. This Glen Scotia, which was peated to 22ppm of phenol, started out in bourbon before being finished for 2 years in a red wine cask from Chateau Maurac, a Cru Bourgeois winery from the Haut-Medoc appellation in Bordeaux. It is bottled at 59.8% ABV.
Nose: Sea salty peat, light brine, toasted marshmallows, ginger root, clove, white pepper and anise
Palate: Bright cherries and raspberries, woodspices, soft leather, vanilla wafers, toffee, sea salt, brine and very light leather coated peat
Finish: Long with big worn leather, chewy caramel, marmite and grape tannins
Actually very unique and well put together! Not as much ppm of phenol as the Tawny finish but the peat is much more present and plays well into the wine cask and makes for some very interesting flavour combinations! Hope to see some single red wine casks of Glen Scotia available in Canada sometime soon!
Glen Scotia 2008 1st Fill Oloroso Peated Cask #416
Finally we conclude this warehouse tasting with more of a traditional sweet peat. This Glen Scotia was peated to a more subtle 15-17ppm of phenol and then aged in a bourbon barrel before an 18 month finish in a fresh Oloroso sherry butt. It came out at 56.3% ABV.
Nose: Big sea salted caramel, sweet cherries, britney peat, wine tannins, soft spices, soft leather, cocoa powder and anise
Palate: Huge dark chocolate, wine tannins, big cinnamon, clove and cardamom, silky toffee, smoky leather, smoked shellfish and rock salts
Finish: Long with chocolate cherries, lemon drops, clove, red grape skins,
Decently complex, a great mouthfeel and a well integrated dessert dram to end this warehouse tasting.
Overall a wonderful tour and one of the best tastings I did in Scotland in which every whisky tried was really good! I would definitely recommend anyone who’s a fan of the distillery to give Glen Scotia a visit as I think you’ll be well rewarded for taking the long journey to Campbeltown! Highly recommended!