Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Good for you, Glen, good for you.

the new album by new age artist, Glen Scotia: "Aged 16 Years"
The last time I bought a single malt, you may remember I had trouble deciding what to get, and ended up plumping for another Islay. Well, after that I thought it was about time I created a system to help me explore the world of single malt whisky more fully.

What I did was identify a number of categories and then a method of rotating them (ever the geek). So the main categories were the various Scotch whisky producing regions, plus merchant, Japanese and other, after which there would be subsidiary categories, which would be based around the various expressions you can get – no age/under 10, 10-13, 14-17, 18+, cask strength etc. That way, each time I make a purchase I can narrow down my choices and make sure that ultimately I sample a bit of everything.

As my Talisker dwindled and payday came around, it was time to make my first purchase. My system decreed that it would be a Campbeltown malt, aged between 14 and 17 years. I turned to the three prominent whisky retailers The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and Single Malts Direct, and selected the Glen Scotia 16. I’ve never had a Campbeltown before, so I had no idea what to expect.

 Let me say first of all, if I was basing my purchase on presentation this would probably be one of the very last bottles I would ever select… what is going on there? It’s more suited to the cover of an album of new age music than to a lower-mid-range bottle of scotch. I didn’t actually know what that animal was, but the description on The Whisky Exchange informs me that it is a highland cow, and it is framed against the backdrop of aurora borealis on a metallic green bottle that is marginally too tall to go in my special cupboard. Instead it must sit on top with the rabble.

This apparently represents something of a rebranding. Yeah, can’t say I’m a fan of that. But it’s what’s in the bottle that matters, right?

Glen Scotia is actually available in 10, 12, 16, 18 and 21 year old expressions which implies to me that they have a lot of product hanging about. So the 16 is right in the middle. All the expressions are non chill-filtered and bottled at a gusset moistening 46% ABV. Good for you Glen, good for you.

This one set me back £49.45 + P&P.

So what’s the verdict? Verdict is: I like it.

To the eye, the spirit is very pale, almost clear – so you can see why the bottle isn’t. The palate brings something unique to my admittedly slim field of experience. Alongside the more gentle and familiar smokiness there is something synthetic, almost unpleasant tasting on entry, but this very quickly gives way to intriguing complexity. There are what I am going to call edges to the flavour – contrasts that keep me coming back for more. There is citrus in there and a bit of peat, but also, as advertised on the tin, a gentle spiciness. The generous alcohol content certainly makes itself felt, and (together with previous experiences) is making me determined to buy stronger spirits wherever possible.

Finally, the finish has a decent and pleasant length – er… I'll just stop there - before I say something inappropriate.

So, in summation, Glen Scotia 16 makes an interesting and enjoyable dram. I can understand that it won’t be to everyone’s taste – in fact I’m fairly confident that some people will abhor it – but I found it made a nice change, not relying too much on sweetness, and instead stimulating certain edgier tasting faculties.

At £50 it probably is a little bit expensive, but you are getting the benefit of 16 years and no chill filtration (and that 46% ABV). You can definitely get better for a similar price or less, but if you’re into your whisky, you’re going to want to expand your horizons a bit and I don’t think you’d be wasting your money here. I had enough confidence in it to make it my special occasion or guest drink for it’s fairly short lifespan (against some admittedly low prestige competition) and while I don’t think it blew anyone away (few of my guests were as into whisky as I am), it garnered at low key approval.

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