Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Liquidated Liquid: Three New Bladnochs from K&L
I've always felt Bladnoch was one of the more underrated Scotch distilleries. Like a number of distilleries, this Lowlander was shuttered briefly in the '90s (by Diageo) and then restarted under new ownership. K&L, which previously brought us an excellent Bladnoch from Chieftain's, went straight to the source this time and got the Bladnoch distillery to bottle three different single barrel expressions for them. K&L's three bottles represent different ages, different peating levels and different eras of the distillery.
When I first wrote this post, I thought it would be a good opportunity for folks to try some Bladnoch distillery bottlings, since the US doesn't get them. It turns out, it may be the last chance to try distillery Bladnochs given yesterday's sad news that the distillery is going into liquidation.
Young Bladnoch, distilled 2009, heavily peated, 61.3% abv ($55)
Obviously, this is really young. The nose is new makey with buttered popcorn. The palate is bold and peaty with a touch of sweetness, and all of that sweet peat carries into a nice, long finish. This is surprisingly good considering its age. It could easily pass for a Kilchoman or a young Ardbeg. It still has a lot of new make notes, but it's got a lot going for it. It's good now, but it has huge potential. I hope someone holds onto a few casks of it, because I'd love to try it in 10 or 20 years.
Bladnoch 11, distilled 2002, lightly peated, 51.5% abv ($70)
Whoa, this is some funky stuff. The nose is briny and mildewy, like a damp basement near the ocean. The palate starts with peat and then gets very sweet and a bit chemically, like artificial sweetener. By the finish, it's downright perfumey in character with some light peat on the palate. This is weird stuff. Tasting blind, I would probably have guessed Connemara, the peated Irish Whiskey.
Bladnoch 23, distilled 1990, 44.4% abv ($120)
This one, of course, comes from the previous owners of the distillery. The nose is really gorgeous, equal parts malty and fruity. The palate isn't quite as complex. It starts with clean, malty notes, move to some graininess, and a bit of soapiness. The finish is buttery and filled with oak notes. This is the only one of the trio that falls into the traditional Bladnoch flavor profile, and it does it well.
This was a nice trio of three different styles from the distillery. The 23 year old was my favorite and the one that will appeal most to Bladnoch fans, but the Young Bladnoch is fun stuff that deserves attention. While the 11 year old was not bad, it was a bit of a mess flavor wise and was certainly the weakest of the three (though Connemara fans might like it).
This distillery was clearly going in some interesting directions, and it saddens me that it's having problems (although apparently the problems are not of a financial nature). Hopefully, someone will step in and rescue the distillery.