A Lowland distillery
Bladnoch (pronounced blad-nock) is the most southerly distillery that is currently operating in Scotland. It is located in a remote spot, close to the village of Wigtown, between the towns of Dumfries and Stranraer and is actually further south than parts of northern England, including the city of Newcastle. Bladnoch takes its name from the nearby River Bladnoch, which supplies the water for the whisky production, and was founded in 1817 by two brothers - Thomas and John McClelland. The distillery has had a chequered history and has been closed and re-opened on a number of occasions. There have been various financial reasons for this but most closures have ultimately been attributed to Bladnoch's location.
A new range of whisky
The most recent closure was in the mid 1990s. The previous owners (United Distillers, who later became part of Diageo) closed Bladnoch in 1993 and the distillery was later purchased by Northern Irishman Raymond Armstrong in 1994. His aim was to help the flagging Lowland whisky industry that at the time only had two distilleries left - Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie - having previous had over 30. However, following various legal battles with Diageo, Armstrong was not allowed to begin production until 2000 and even then the production capacity was capped at 100,000 litres per year (full capacity is around 250,000 litres per year). Initially, old stock from the previous owners was bottled and released, before in 2008 the first single malt produced during Armstrong's tenure was released. The current range is expanding and includes this eight years old, a lightly peated version and some special editions.
Our tasting notes
This eight years old is bottled at 46% ABV and should cost around £30-35 a bottle. It is available from specialist alcohol retailers or www.bladnoch.co.uk. The colour is a pale yellow, almost straw-like, and the nose is very pleasant, clean and light. There is immediate cereal grain notes and these lead the nose, before allowing other aromas to come through - included in this is plenty of oak, vanilla, a distinct grassy note (think of straw or hay), a hint of citrus zestiness (imagine lemons) and a whiff of alcoholic spirit. With time, the nose sweetens and introduces some honey and increased vanilla notes. The palate has a similar feel, with a good balance and intensity that really gets your saliva going. It is again led by a heavy cereal grain influence with a plenty of vanilla and oak. The distinct grassiness of the nose is slightly more understated and the sweet honey and juicy, acidic citrus zest again coming through with time. Also, some almonds and hazelnut notes are present and these give the palate a creamier and slightly heavier, oilier feel than expected from the lighter, fresher nose. The finish has a decent length, beginning sweetly with honey and vanilla before becoming drier with plenty of woody oak, acidic citrus zest and dried grasses. It feels bittersweet by the time it fades.
What's the verdict?
This is a decent dram that has a lot of character for a whisky in the lighter style. It would be a great Summer drink or as an aperitif whisky on a warm day. This Bladnoch eight years old may be a little light for some or a bit too grainy and grassy for a beginner but is clearly well balanced, well made and well matured. If you haven't tried Bladnoch whisky before then this one is a good introduction to the distillery and well worth a try.