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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Single Malt Report: Bladnoch 20 year old 1993 Signatory (casks 767+773)

Bladnoch Bladnoch Bladnoch Bladnoch.  That's how this week's going to play out.  I'd noticed that I had yet to do a full report on a Bladnoch, and there were four Bladnoch samples from four different sources in my stash.  So the latter could address the former.  Because I do not have four nights of fully functioning senses and sanity in one week, I planned two nights with two whiskies each.  Comparisons often help me figure out whiskies, so hopefully this works.

Bladnoch somehow has a committed following and is often ignored completely when folks write about the Lowlands (as in a recent Whisky Magazine article about distilleries in that part of Scotland).  As of a couple years ago there were only three functioning malt distilleries there, so it's kinda hard to miss, especially with the ongoing drama with its ownership situation.

Sadly, Bladnoch was closed and went up for sale last year.  Its current fate is sort of blurry.  There were a number of posts/rumors on the internet that Vatika Group (an Indian real estate and construction company) had purchased the distillery, but I still haven't found an official public confirmation of a closed sale.  What I did find was a blurb that Vatika backed out of the sale last month.  That hyperlink will send you to the forum run by Raymond Armstrong, one of Bladnoch's former owners.  A forum member mentions Vatika backing out and Armstrong confirms it.  So......I guess the distillery's still up for sale if somebody wants it.

Okay, Bladnoch #1 this week is a 20 year old from Signatory.  It's not one of their cask strength editions, nor is it from their Unchillfiltered series.  It's one of those gold/yellow-labelled bottlings that are presented at 43%abv.  This Master of Malt sample was generously gifted to me by my buddy Tetris (thanks, Tetris!) and was studied alongside tomorrow's Bladnoch.

Distillery: Bladnoch
Ownership: ???
Age: 20 years (March 8, 1993 - April 25, 2013)
Maturation: Hogsheads
Cask #s: 767 & 773
Bottles: 798
Region: Lowlands
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Possibly
Caramel Colorant? No

Its color is light gold.  On the nose, the first sniff brings one of the most intensely grassy notes I've yet come across.  Think wet grass and wet soil in the morning after a night rain.  That's met by a hint of pine, followed by more than a hint of wormwood.  Then cucumber, celery, and mint leaves.  A distant tire fire.  Maybe there's a little bit of lime candy and maraschino cherries brightening it up around the edges.  The palate is remarkably loud for a 43%abv.  A big burst of bitter rooty dirtiness held together by syrupy toffee.  A blast of barley and sugary sweetness arrives next.  Then, after a half hour of air, suddenly some sherry shows up.  And it's a sweet sherry, full of carob and prunes.  Meanwhile, the bitterness never leaves.  After all that pomp, the finish gets quiet.  Some the palate's residual bitterness remains along with the nose's grassy stuff.  A hint of toffee, some roasted coffee.  Then a curious puff of cigarette smoke lingers on the tongue.

This one is a strange mess, but I love it.  The nose, especially, is a hoot, as it's as far from contemporary oak tech as can be.  Its (good) greenness and earthiness remain strong throughout.  As mentioned, the palate is impressively rich.  The bitter and sweet notes are almost musical together.  The effect of the whisky's proofing down only shows in the mild finish and that's what keeps me from giving this a 90+ score.

Though the whisky came from two hogsheads, one of them probably had once been seasoned with sherry.  Or this was a result of a recasking of sherried Bladnoch.  The smoke note could be the result of some interaction with barrel char, or the barrel's former contents, or some peated residue in the still itself, because I don't think that this was from purposely peated spirit.  No matter the source of the oddities, they're entertaining.

So, this is a whisky for specific palates.  It's gotten no love from whiskybase members -- which is understandable -- but it's not easy to find any remaining bottles out there.  So somebody bought this stuff.  And it did spawn a sequel that contained casks 774 & 775.  In any case, if you have a bottle of this Siggy Bladnoch (casks 767 and 773) then at the very least you probably won't find it boring.

Availability - Happy Hunting (in Europe)!
Pricing - May have been in the $75-$85 (pre-shipping) range
Rating - 88

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