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Monday, October 31, 2016

Single Malt Report: Glen Scotia 15 year old (2015)

Goodbye purple cows, Hello vanilla oak

Like Loch Lomond, its stable mate, Glen Scotia's bottle designs keep changing every couple of years. Three years ago they gave us the disco cows (thx Jordan!), a range with festively fugly packaging design, but a range WITH age statements. Last year, the LSD coos were replaced with mild mannered modern labels. And a majority absence of age statements.

The new range consists of Double Cask, Victoriana, and the 15 year old. I tried the Double Cask this May and found it to be fine, though generic. With all the cask influence it could have been any malt. On the other hand, my experience with Victoriana last year was not good.
For some reason Glen Scotia's twitter team liked that post.

The common theme with the two NASes was the submersion (subversion?) of the Glen Scotia character underneath the cask influence. Since Glen Scotia was never a popular whisky, I have a feeling this throttling of its style is no accident as the producers attempt to make their whisky friendlier. To top it all off, the official website keeps listing "vanilla oak" in the notes for each whisky, and claims "vanilla oak" is part of Glen Scotia's signature style. That's wrongheaded on so many levels.

In any case, the 15 year old was aged only in "the finest American oak barrels". I'm really hoping these "finest" barrels include some refills because I actually like Glen Scotia's spirit.

The Review

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Ownership: Loch Lomond Group (via Exponent)
Region: Campbeltown
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: "American oak barrels"
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? Yup
(Mini purchased somewhere around Ben Nevis.)

One can see the e150a in the color, sadly, because the stuff looks sherry cask dark. The nose is piney and fruity. Peaches and mangoes. Quite nice, actually. More spirit-forward than the previous 16yo. There's some brine, rosemary and ginger candy, almost like some kooky international rye. A dark, sort of tarry note lingers in the far back. With time the fruit trends towards roses, meanwhile some fun industrial funkiness shows up.  The palate is fruity as well, mostly sweet stone fruit. There's a moderate malt note in there. Some peppery sharpness. Vanilla is lightly present. It all picks up some hot cinnamon spiciness with time. The vanilla note grows but meets with the stone fruit pretty well. The finish is uncomplicated but long. Malt, salt, sweet, a little bit of vanilla and a peppery tingle.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose gets buttery and floral. Caramel, oranges and a distinct burnt note. The palate becomes syrupy sweet with a slight bitter edge to it. Loads of caramel and vanilla. Sugar cookies. A touch of malt. More sugar, vanilla, and caramel in the finish. Hints of pepper, toasted oak, and bitterness.

This is a full step ahead of their NAS bottlings, at least for those of us Glen Scotia fans. It's not awe-inspiring but the oak is kept in check, when neat. It also carries more oomph than the disco cow 16 year old. The fruit notes are great, reminiscent of well-matured Highland malt. Yet at the same time, the palate is nearly style-less and could really be from any decent quality balanced single malt. But it's the zany nose that was my favorite part, always entertaining, never boring. Oh, and do yourself a favor by leaving water out of this!

A 15yo 46%abv for $50-$60?! That's getting pretty rare. But that's the Glen Scotia 15's price range in Europe. Here in the US it's $75-$90 and I would frankly never recommend it at that price. But for $50, yes. Who knows how long its age statement will last?

Availability - Prevalent in Europe, though much less so in the US
Pricing - $50-$60 (w/o VAT or shipping) in Europe, $75-$90 (w/o VAT or shipping) in USA
Rating - 85 (neat only)