Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review / Bladnoch Vinaya

This whisky is a new addition to the core range of single malts from the revitalised Lowland distillery of Bladnoch (pronounced blad-nock). The Bladnoch Vinaya takes its name from a Sanskrit word meaning respect and gratitude, and joins the similarly named Adela, Samsara and Talia expressions (amongst others) in the ever-expanding range. The distillery, which has seen a major recent revamp of both production equipment and fortunes, is known as 'The Queen of the Lowlands'. The Vinaya has seen whisky matured in both first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and first-fill ex-sherry casks, which have been selected and married together by Master Distiller Dr. Nick Savage.


"Vinaya is inspired by teachings throughout the distillery’s history. From our original founders in 1817 to our new era, we wanted to showcase the Lowland style of Bladnoch distillery. We are excited to share it with the world." 
Dr. Nick Savage. 
Bladnoch is located in a remote spot of Dumfries & Galloway close to the village of Wigtown and is further south than parts of northern England, including the city of Newcastle. It was founded in 1817 by brothers John and Thomas McClelland. The name is derived from the ancient Gaelic place name of Blaidzenoch and the nearby River Bladnoch supplies the water for the whisky production. The distillery has had a chequered history and has been closed and re-opened on a number of occasions due to operational, financial and location reasons.

The most recent closure came in 2014 when the previous ownership went into liquidation. This led to David Prior taking over in 2015 and he undertook a complete refurbishment of the distillery. The only piece of old equipment that remained fit for purpose was the mill with everything else replaced. Production restarted in the Summer of 2017 with a new visitor centre later opened by HRH Prince Charles in September 2019. Production capacity is now 1.5 million litres with around 100,000 litres of this being a heavily peated spirit.

Bladnoch Vinaya is bottled at 46.7% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is available globally from specialist retailers in selected markets or via A bottle will cost £49/ $68 US. 

Our tasting notes

The colour is pale gold and the nose is light, sweet and on the delicate side. Aromas of brown sugar, honey and butterscotch rise from the glass and are quickly joined by sultana and a hint of almond. Then comes further hints of milk chocolate and cinnamon along with distinct aromas of dried grass and malted cereals. 

On the palate this whisky has an initial lightness and elegance. The sweetness leads the way - think of crumbly brown sugar and juicy sultanas in particular to begin with, followed by honey and butterscotch. This leads to further notes of toffee and a hint of milk chocolate. 

Underneath are those distinctive grassy and cereal notes from the nose - imagine meadow hay and straw combined with gripping bittersweet malt and oat biscuits. These characteristics underpin everything and accentuate the sweeter notes, therefore elevating them. A good pinch of warming spice is also evident, especially cinnamon and gingerbread, and these add a further layer of complexity and flavour. A final hint of hazelnut and a drop of orange oil round things off.

The finish is on the short side, especially once the sweet elements have gone. This leaves the warming spices and gripping maltiness to drag out the finish, although not to the length that we expected. This gives the finish a final bit of heat.

What's the verdict?

This is our first experience of Bladnoch under the current ownership, having not sampled anything from the Lowland distillery for over 10 years. And we are delighted with what we have found. From memory the previous expressions that we have tasted were in the typical Lowland style - light, grassy and delicate. 

The Vinaya is very much in the same vein but with a little extra richness and sweetness coming from the ex-sherry casks. It now makes us want to try the other whiskies in the core range and it is great to see the distillery putting out such good whiskies and coming back from the dead.

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