The Bladnoch distillery was founded in 1817 and, has been producing single malt whisky on and off – thankfully mostly on – from the farm site since, on the banks of the River Bladnoch. Following nearly a century of initial family ownership, the site has then changed hands numerous times in its second hundred – as with many of the longstanding distilleries – but has maintained its status as one of the finest Lowland distilleries.
Unlike its northern counterparts within the Highlands, the Lowlands distilleries have become relatively few and far between in recent times but the distillers in Galloway have stood fast and through some shrewd investment and rebranding in 2015, the Bladnoch name is now thriving again and still flying the flag for Lowland malts.
Lowland whiskies have often been synonymous with being light bodied with good grassy and floral flavours. The Bladnoch 10 sticks to that hallmark with what it describes as a “tribute to rare, lowland single malt scotch whisky”
This bottling of Bladnoch 10 year old is a limited release of purely ex-bourbon barrel matured spirit, initially launched in 2017 and branded as “Celebrating 200 Years” crafted by then Master Distlller Ian Macmillan. The liquid has been captured at 46.7% ABV and is non-chill filtered.
For want of a better opening line, this has a pure single malt smell to it. There’s a cleanness, sweetness and freshness to it. You can still smell the barley and it’s grist despite it’s 10 years+ in bourbon barrels. Speaking of which, there’s a distinct vanilla sweetness and creaminess from the bourbon and a nice gentle spice from the barrel itself. That vanilla sweetness is joined by a citrusy and fruity sweetness too, like lemon (or lemongrass) and green apples. There’s a little nutty flavour too – like sugared almonds – joining the fold along with a little floral or herby, raw honey type flavour. These all little hints though. Overall it’s to the point. Light, clean and fresh.
A really light, soft and smooth texture coats the tongue and brings those classic malt flavours with it. The texture has a nut butter taste and quality to it too without being cloying. The sweet honey flavours from the nose pick up quite a bit and become almost sharp and sherbety with an equally sharp citrus burst and zest – think of some pithy oranges and lemons. It really fizzles in the mouth. There’s a strong cereal note too. In fact, with a little bit of coconut and banana flavours appearing, that cereal note really reminds me of Kellogg’s Fruit and Fibre. The cinnamon and gingery oak spices really ramp up for the finale.
Despite how light bodied it is, that oak spice really lingers. I’m not sure if it’s the ABV, the oak spice or a combo of the two that is causing that sensation but it still fizzles on the tongue long after the liquid has gone. Despite that, there still seems to be a final redeeming vanilla creaminess left on your tongue once the spice has eventually gone that just invites another quick sip.
This is a goooood addition to the whisky cabinet. It kinda feels like they have gone back to the basics of single malt scotch whiskies and are doing it well. It really does invite you back in for another pour.
With so many whiskies coming to the market now from new distillery X or relaunch of brand Y it’s hard for people to stand out. The whiskies themselves are going through all sorts of experiments in order to turn your head in their direction too. Special maturation this. Triple cask that. Bladnoch seem to have deftly handled that marketing need with a bold but classy look but have turned to the malt inside and have said: scrap that! Let’s get back to the grass [ed: barley?] roots of single malts. With this entry bottling, essentially they are saying: this is our spirit and it’s been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. That’s it. And we think it’s bloody good. And I tend to agree.
Being honest, the main reasons that I actually wanted to go out and buy this whisky in the first place was because a) I had heard very good things about it, b) I thought it would look damn good in the cabinet (and it does) and, foremost c) it is said to be a celebration of the traditional lowland spirit offerings. With so few of the old Lowland distilleries left around, this has been on the hit list for a while and it hasn’t disappointed. It remains light and fresh but hits you with a refined spice that is just edged off from a pure sensory attack by a softness and creaminess that underpins the whole thing. There are little flashes of flavour that pop up which are classics of the single malt genre and make it enjoyable at first sip but they hide more flavours beneath them if you go looking for them – for instance there are some little tropical fruit notes which appear when adding a little bit of water (pineapple and papaya). The dominant characteristic to me though is the building spice to be honest. That said, for all of that oaky fire though, you can tell that it has been harnessed well.
The RRP for this expression was around the £50-55 mark – if you can still find it – which for a 10 year old single malt scotch whisky is pretty pricey. Definitely at the top of the spectrum. That is also part of the reason it’s been on the list for a while to be honest. When the starts aligned though and I found it for the right price, I am glad with what I’ve got. Probably a stretch for casual buyer though. I believe that the 11yo is being brought in as a comparable and permanent replacement for the 10yo, so hopefully another year for the same figure may ease the purse strings for others to try it.
Back to the malt though and we’ve got a good one. A lightness, sweetness and freshness that sticks packs a considerably spiced delivery makes for good drinking, and for that light body to deliver such a big profile without becoming too much, it just screams quality to me. Perfect for this time of year. A malthead’s malt.
Sample disclosure: As mentioned above, I have had my eye on this for a little while and bought this bottle myself. This is not intended as a promotion, but an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky itself. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.