Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Spirit Log: Bladnoch 12, sherry cask matured, sheep label

I’ve had a fairly interesting relationship with this distillery; first heard of it from the 101Whiskies book, which recommended the 8 year old, and pushed it as a way to support the man who had re-opened the distillery. I didn’t see that as reason enough alone to buy a bottle or include it in a definitive list of 101 whiskies, but by chance I came into possession of around half a bottle of the 10 year old, left over from the first Whisky Club meet. This also coincided with my acquisition of some glencairn glasses.The 10 year old was delightful, and currently sits in a proud 3rd place in my all time single malt rankings.

So, moving on,  I had implemented a method for helping me to sample all the different varieties of scotch, and determining what to buy next. It had decreed that a no age statement Highland malt would be followed by a Lowland aged 11-14 years. I had already determined that I would like that Lowland to be Bladnoch… when I heard the distillery was closing. I had just about enough in my booze budget, and it seemed almost like it would be my last chance. I don’t know how things will pan out, but I don’t need much excuse. It also helped that along with the standard 46% expressions, there are 55% ones – which this one is.

It doesn’t come in a box, and it almost appears like a cheap but obscure blend, but if you’re not going to go for intimidatingly impressive, this is what you’re looking for when buying whisky – presentation that is understated, quietly confident, unpretentious; a bottle that speaks to the whisky enthusiast who can see beyond fancy packaging, who stops and thinks, I bet that will be good.

You might not know of Bladnoch, but if you saw this on the shelf of your local stockist, you should be thinking, 55%? I’ll have it, though you might not be seeing much of it now. I notice since I bought my bottle that the various expressions of Bladnoch sold out pretty quickly on the various online retailers.

The Tasting Notes

Nose – immediate impressions were that it was buttery and cheesy with a hint of vanilla at the end. Cheese isn’t something I consider to be a particularly pleasant smell for whisky, but it is something I’d noticed before, with the Bruichladdich Organic. Mrs Cake suggested strawberries and cherries, but I got nothing of that.

The second time I popped the cork, this cheesiness had thankfully diminished and I was detecting fruity hints, though I couldn’t identify more specifically.

Palate – I left it for 12 minutes before tasting, and concluded that at 55%, it is definitely too strong to be taken neat. I added water by degrees to sooth that burn, but it seemed to take quite a long time to settle down – for the whisky and the water to amalgamate so that I didn’t feel they were working against each other. In the end I found it fairly pleasant, though I think I’d add less water next time. Until the optimum dilution level can be found I fear I’ll be left wishing I’d bought a 46% expression so that I wouldn’t have to concern myself with this. I remember being more immediately impressed with the 10 year old, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the whisky will open up when it has had chance to breathe and I will find a good whisky to water ratio in the fullness of time.

My dilution level was much better the second time around – just enough to quell the worst of the burn, but leave the solution rich and silky. Still not quite sure on flavours or the level of greatness this is likely to achieve.

By the third time, I’d got it spot on. It was only a little dribble, and this helped to preserve some of the heat while bringing out the Bladnoch character that I remembered from the 10 year old. I can’t think I reduced the strength to less than 50% and this helped to give a satisfying glow that I could bask in for the last half hour before bed.

Overall I have to say I’m a little disappointed with this expression. It isn’t that it isn’t good, just that it isn’t great – even in comparison with the 10 year old of previous experience. And that is surely down to my expectations more than anything else. If I hadn’t enjoyed the Bladnoch 10 so much, would this have made more of a mark? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty.

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