Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown 46%

Last in our Campbeltown trio was a no age statement Travel Retail offering from Glen Scotia. While one may be tempted to have an NAS before age statements, in this case, I knew this expression was both more peated than a standard Glen Scotia plus an experimentation with a PX sherry cask finish, so it ‘felt’ intuitively like the one to close with… even though the least expensive of the bunch!

That’s part of the magic with tasting order – when trying whiskies side by side, selecting the right progression of profiles is critical. Try something really intense up front and you can overwhelm the senses to miss completely the nuances of a subtler dram. It seems self-evident but can be tricky when you’ve never tried that particular expression and have to go by a ‘gut’ feel basis what you do know of the distillery, potential impact of the wood, particularly as described peat levels can be notoriously unreliable – both by ppm and the ‘eye’ (palate) of the beholder!

However in this case, my blind tasting companions from the first session confirmed the appropriateness of starting with the Springbank 10 year, followed by the Glen Scotia 16 year and this expression. So I followed the same approach for the Whisky Ladies virtual session held a few weeks later!

Whereas the small group of ladies began with this NAS followed by the Springbank 10 and Glen Scotia 16. In this case, tasting order made little difference – we had quite similar impressions of all three whiskies!

Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown 46%

  • Nose
    • Mixed group – Started with Williams pear or dishrag (depending on who you ask!), walnut, caramel or toffee, bacon, dates, the gulkand that goes into paan, hints of vanilla, one also got kerosene or motor oil, sour leather… after some time – don’t laugh – but I got gummy bears!
    • Virtual ladies – For us, it started with overripe almost spoilt fruits, quite pungent, oily, shifting from sweet overripe black grapes to bananas, then figs to nuts, with rum raisin.. shifted again to dahi… after even more time the over ripe fruit dimension was replaced by other elements like cardamon kheer, touch of smoke
    • During our share and compare, the other group of ladies added their sense of honey lemon, comforting.. with a vanilla perfume
  • Palate
    • Mixed group – A clean peat with cinnamon, salt and smoke, pepper fry, sweet stewed fruits, nice and round
    • Virtual ladies – The 1st sip was a bit of a shock of bitter spice, but after the initial ‘punch’, the 2nd sip was smooth, still having spice but chased with subtle sweet peat, resin, with that tasty bitterness lingering… there was also a herbal green element we couldn’t quite place which the other group of ladies nailed – green capsicum
  • Finish
    • Mixed group – Salt and pepper spice, dry
    • Virtual ladies – The bit of bitterness remained, dry with black pepper licorice spice

In our mixed group, we initially found it a bit unbalanced… there was a curious quality for some time until it settled down. Once that “motor oil” quality finally dispersed and it began to grow on us. When we compared with the others, we found all three had dry finishes with this one a bit spicier than the others. Certainly the peat was more pronounced too, though clearly not a typical Islay style.

As for our ladies? For us, it was all the contrasts that made us slow down and really explore this one.  As interesting as the nose was to begin with, after a few sips, it lost a bit of its pungency. However by contrast, the palate grew on us more and more. This whisky challenged us – in a good way, reminding us why it is so fun to explore different dimensions with others. The other group also enjoyed it – sharing the warm and tingly combined with perfume finish.

Bottom line – it was a ‘yes’ from all.

What do the folks at Glen Scotia have to say?

The higher peat content gives a more sweet and smoky character and a beautiful rounded finish.

  • Nose – Peat smoke on a salty sea breeze with background notes of crème caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Golden syrup (light treacle), spiced apple and vanilla. Light medicinal peat notes bring balance to the mid-palate
  • Finish – Long, lingering peat with dried fruit notes adding sweetness

I purchased this whisky late Oct 2019 from Munich airport for EUR 62 on my way back home to Mumbai…. ahhh…. those were the days when we could freely fly back and forth!

And with that, we finished our wee journey to the Campbeltown region with Springbank and Glen Scotia!

Interested in other Glen Scotia experiences? Check out:

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Campbeltown – Glen Scotia 16 year 46%

Today part of the Loch Lomond Group, Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia traces its history to 1832, however certainly had a few ‘silent’ periods. The first halt in 1930 was brought on the dramatic fall of distilling in the Campbeltown region triggered by the depression, temperance movement and rising distribution costs. Original known as “Scotia”, the distillery re-opened a few years later as “Glen Scotia” when bought by the Bloch Brothers. Fast forward to the next major decline in the whisky industry – no surprise is shut production from 1984 to 1989 – starting up again when bought by the Gibson group.

With our history lesson now over, what about the whisky? Well… it has both lightly peated and non-peated variants, playing around with American oak / ex-bourbon, oloroso and PX sherry casks.

As for our collective tasting experience? I’d explored a a few minis from Glen Scotia with a regular tasting companion. We found the entry expression – Double Cask 46% – was quite a good indicator of what is to come, noting the 15 year took a bit of time to ‘warm’ up, whereas the Victoriana 51.5% was a clear ‘pleaser’ from the start.

So then… what about this 16 year?

Glen Scotia 16 year 46%

  • Colour – Coper and gold
  • Nose
    • Mixed group – Musty cupboard, sour fruits, a bit like a fruity brandy, lots of honey, oak, floral talcum, rose peppermints, coffee sweets, chicory, lightly salted, dry spice, more light wood, grass, celery, cherry blossoms
    • Virtual Ladies – A nice bourbon, fruits and nuts with cocao, changes so much in a gentle way… toffee, berries shifting to cherries… sweet but not too sweet… our IRL ladies also found beeswax
  • Palate
    • Mixed group – Spiced Christmas oranges with cloves, dry salt, cigar leaf, gooseberries, apple – like calvados, sour plum, almonds, dry sherry, peppery spice, hint of peat
    • Virtual ladies – Simply delicious! Incredibly silky with a great well rounded mouth feel. We tasted figs with dates, a gentle roasted quality…  our IRL ladies agreed – noting what really stood out was the velvety smoothness with a hint of mint at the back
  • Finish
    • Mixed group – Salty dry
    • Virtual ladies – Sweet milk chocolate, after lingering for some time slowly eases out with a dry black licorice
  • Water – A few drops didn’t hurt… but why dilute something so fine? Truly not needed

For the mixed group, we concluded overall that it had quite a friendly nose – more interesting and complex than the palate. Even after the glass was empty, the aromas were most appealing. For a few in our cross-country virtual tasting (from London to scattered locations around Europe to Mumbai) this was the favourite.

As for our ladies? We agreed! We found it had a fabulous harmony, makes its presence felt in a gentle enticing way. The kind of dram you want some ‘alone time’ with…. slow down and simply enjoy.

What more do we know? Just that it was matured in ex-bourbon and American oak (presumably virgin?) for a minimum of 16 years and released for Travel Retail. While the distillery notes do not indicate it was matured or finished in sherry casks, both their tasting notes and our experience would indicate a hint.

What do the folks at Glen Scotia have to say about their 16 year?

  • Nose – Fresh sea spray and floral notes give way to softer caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Rich sherry flavours, toffee, raisins and roasted hazelnut. Apricot and orange add more subtle fruit notes
  • Finish – Long dry finish with touches of peat combining with nutty elements and coastal, salty notes

I picked it up in Singapore’s Changi Airport in November 2018 for SGP 167 (approx EUR 105 / INR 9,100). A bit pricey, but then that is also Singapore…

What did we explore in our Campbeltown evening aside from the Glen Scotia 16 year?

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Campbeltown – Springbank 10 year 46%

This isn’t my first Campbeltown trio… Even more so, we are no stranger to Springbank distillery – I counted over a dozen different tasting experiences from the last few years! I’ve even tried this 10 year expression – back in 2015 and again 2019. Overall the experiences have been positive, so I was curious to see what we find this time around!

This whisky was sampled on two occasions – once by a mixed group from London to Paris to Nurnberg and Mumbai and the 2nd as a combination of Whisky Ladies connecting virtual and a very small group in real life, culminating in a comparison of our experiences.

Springbank 10 year 46%

  • Nose
    • Mixed group – Fruity, honey, fresh wood, tropical fruit – particularly pink guava, pineapple, toffee and vanilla cream, cake frosting and pastry…
    • Ladies virtual  – Started off as tropic spice, apricot, opening up to increasing sweetness, cream… over time some maple honey emerged with cereals
  • Palate
    • Mixed Group – Subtle peat, smoky, salty, a nice woodiness… after the 2nd sip, sweet spice of nutmeg, allspice, dry cherry
    • Ladies virtual – The first sip was a bit harsh – burning down the throat to the finish. After the initial spice kick, further sips were easier but still lots of black pepper and nutmeg
  • Finish
    • Mixed Group – Lighter touch, like a dry wine finish, bit bitter and peppery
    • Ladies virtual – Very peppery finish, quite dry
  • Water – Lots of overripe fruit, spicier, sour fruit (tried only by the mixed group)

Our mixed group was a bit more charitable in our overall assessment We found that while initially there was no hint of peat on the nose, it came through on the palate. While it wasn’t a crowd pleaser, we found it settled into a mellow sweet peat.

The Ladies were all pretty clear that this one did not impress. Several had otherwise good Springbank experiences – including a venerable Springbank 37 year! Those who joined iRL, found it bitter, oily with some cilantro. Especially when we revisited it after trying the others, it was flat to the nose and palate. Disappointing I’m afraid.

What about the Springbank official tasting notes?

Our 10-year-old offers whisky drinkers the perfect introduction to the Springbank range. Matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, it is perfectly balanced from the first sip through to the full, rich finish.

  • Nose: Orchard fruit (pear) with a hint of peat, vanilla and malt.
  • Palate: Malt, oak, spice, nutmeg and cinnamon, vanilla essence.
  • Finish: Sweet, with a lingering salty tingle.

Would we agree? Not really…

What else did we explore in our Campbeltown evening?

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Campbeltown Trio – Glen Scotia, Springbank

There may be limited distilleries in the Campbeltown region, however while it doesn’t have the range of other regions like the compact but prodigious Speyside, sprawling yet plentiful Highlands or the Islay character, it quietly yet firmly refuses to give up.

While once there was 30 distilleries, today stands 3 – Glen Scotia, Glengyle (Kilkerran) and Springbank – and I thought it past time we slow down to explore at least a small sample from Campbeltown.

While my original plan was to have representation from each of the three distilleries, in the end I satisfied myself with 3 contrasting expressions from 2 distilleries.

What did we explore in our Campbeltown evening?

All of the whiskies were opened in January 2021 and redistributed to interested partakers. In an interesting twist – this trio had multiple dimensions to its tasting experience:

  • Combination of Whisky Ladies in Europe and a couple guys from Bombay Malt & Cigar brought together virtually, sipping from London to Paris, south of France to Nurnberg and of course Mumbai… with samples that were better traveled than some people!
  • Virtual Whisky Ladies in India – mostly Mumbai with one in Delhi and remaining bottles making their way to a very small (socially distanced!) gathering in Bandra “IRL”… after about 45 mins of tasting separately, the virtual and ‘real’ groups joined together to compare notes

It followed an earlier session exploring an Arran vertical. Which just goes to show – we refuse to be daunted by limited travel, limited sourcing means – where there is a will, there is a way!

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Original Club – Springbank 10 year 46%

Representing Campbeltown, our host selected this classic Springbank 10 year as part of our tasting trio.

We sampled it blind following and were completely taken aback – it wasn’t at all like what we have come to expect from Springbank. Read on and discover why…

Springbank 10 year 46%

  • Nose – Jackfruit, cream, old fruit, was there a hint of smoke or peat? Mandarin orange, marshmallow, then solvent? Huh? Which shifted into paan or betel leaf, vanilla, very sweet, grass
  • Palate – Surprisingly soft, orange marmalade, then peat, sweet and even more peat and sweet
  • Finish – There but not much, sweet lemon rind

This one didn’t quite sit right with us… there was a flat tone, one even called it insipid? We certainly thought it had a lower alcohol content than the one before… and we were stumped, we simply couldn’t place it.

The reveal was a shocker. Several of us – myself included – are quite fond of Campbeltown whiskies with this Springbank 10 year a standard.

How then did it not have any of the elements we normally expect? Where was the pear, yummy rich nutty oak, vanilla, pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, a sweet dry yet satisfying finish??

And that’s where we realised without a doubt the impact of the tasting order. Starting off with the powerful peaty Caol Ila, the more delicate Springbank wasn’t able to reveal its true character. Setting them all aside and then coming back after the Scapa made such a difference.

What else did we explore?

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Red Casks – Longrow Red 11 year Cabernet Franc 55.9%

We don’t often get a chance to try drams from Campbeltown, though there are a few clear ‘fans’ in the house! For our original Mumbai based tasting group, this was the first peated Springbank whisky under the Longrow brand that we tried together.

We sampled this whisky blind without bias… and here is what we thought…

Longrow Red Cabernet Franc 11 year 55.9%

  • Nose – Peat! Medicinal and maritime, Hamam or Lifebuoy soap, carbolic, fish oil and salt
  • Palate – Full raging peat fire yet still sweet, well balanced between sweet and peat, most enjoyable… terrific to just roll around the palate and bask in its full flavoured peaty sweetness
  • Finish – Gorgeous sweet spice
  • Water – While it seems counter intuitive, don’t… it somehow made the whisky a bit funky

Overall we quite enjoyed this one! It provoked a lively debate about the different characters of peat… contrasting this style of peat with seaweed vs ashy campfire, with neither elements found in this whisky.

One member was absolutely insistent that it had to be Campbeltown – that the peat style was distinctively from that region! Obviously he was spot on and with the reveal backed up his pronouncement with a short discourse on the three different Islay peat bogs vs Highland vs…. you get the picture!

What do the folks at Springbank have to say? Alas the exact expression we sampled has been replaced with a pinot noir… however this remains consistent for what they are aiming to achieve with their Longrow Red expressions:

Our Longrow Red, always bottled at cask strength, is released annually in small quantities and every year a different type of red wine cask is used to mature the whisky.

Offering a different sensation from Longrow Peated, this whisky is smooth, elegant and subtly juicy.

What did we try in our special “red” casks evening?

Other peaty Campbeltown drams

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North Star Spirits Series 5, Regions 5, Bottles 5

Once a year, two of our Mumbai whisky groups come together to celebrate our mutual passion for a fine dram. This time, I selected the whiskies – ordered online and brought in by another member for our sampling pleasure. I was inspired by an earlier introduction to North Star Spirits and honed in on their series 5, tending towards the more affordable options available with a nice cross-section from different regions.

While the Whisky Ladies sponsored the whiskies, the gents hosted our evening in a gorgeous South Mumbai home with a most civilized sit down tasting followed by a brilliantly paired dinner. To put it mildly, the bar was set high!

And did the whiskies deliver? Read on to discover…

Our 5 Region North Star Spirits cask strength quintet from Cask Series 005 included:

Each was distinctive, unique and completely worth trying!

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North Star’s Campbeltown 4 year (2014/2018) 57%

Next in our North Star Series 005 quintet was a whisky from Campbeltown, which was reviewed by fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn.

Paula McGlynn is a CEO and Founding Director of Gulbadan Talkies and Bharatiya Digital Party (BhaDiPa). BhaDiPa is the pioneer of Marathi digital content, starting with its hit series “Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun” in 2016, and recently revived the Marathi Stand-Up comedy scene, now managing over 15 comic artists. BhaDiPa now has 3 channels under it’s brand, including Bha2Pa (Travel) and Vishay Khol (Politics and Infotainment). BhaDiPa recently received the Zee Talkies Marathi Comedy award for “Best Web Series”, and currently has over 80 million views and over 800K subscribers.

Entrepreneur, producer, actress, script writer… Paula will track down a new whisky experiment from Canada or the US, take an hour off from a film shoot in Goa to pop over to Paul John distillery for a tour (plus collect a coveted bottle of Peated) or drop by WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

You can also check out her #daarudiscoveries on Instagram at Dev_Paula

Here is what Paula has to say about the Campbeltown…

North Star Series 005 – Campbeltown, 4 yrs, 57.4%
  • Blended Malt (blend of 2 casks) – Distillery Unknown
  • Bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour.
  • Item no longer available for purchase

The second in an impressive-looking line up of North Star whiskies was a bit of a surprise – a 4 year old blend, cask-strength bottle (uh-oh) 57.4%!

The Campbeltown immediately drew a few raised eyebrows, and when assigning review-duties to the whisky ladies Carissa warned me to be ‘gentle’ considering its youth.

Upon opening, the first few whiffs led to a few remarks around the table about nail varnish and alcohol fumes… reaffirming our concern that this whisky needed some more time with the wood before bottling.

However, much to everyone’s surprise there started to appear notes of honeycomb, cream, vanilla, and those small, sweet and tart mandarin oranges!

Upon first sip, we were all pleasantly surprised to discover a delightfully light and fruity palate echoing the nose – honey, oranges, ginger, and an orange-maple liqueur quality.

Ending with a mid-length finish (again, a nice surprise), we drew further floral notes of lavender, aromatic bitters, salt, and some lingering orange sweetness.

After sampling a few more whiskies, we returned to this one to find the nose had shifted to a delicious butterscotch, while the palate remained much the same as before.

With a few drops of water, it brought out a lot more hard spices like cloves and ginger, and lost some of the more delicate floral notes. Still, not a bad trade-off depending on your mood!

Campbeltown 4 year (Apr 2014/May 2018) 57%

  • Nose: sweet mandarin orange, honeycomb, floral, cream, vanilla, and sprite! (later butterscotch)
  • Palate: honey, oranges, spice, ginger, orange-maple liqueur
  • Finish: mid-long, bitters, lavender, light sugar-water sweetness, salt, and some lingering orange flavour

The official tasting notes remark on something most of us had never tried… ‘oddfellows aromatic sweeties.’ I did a quick Google and turned up an image of some chalky-looking sweets of mixed colors… I felt it must have been somewhat accurate as mixed fruit, floral, and citrus flavors coming together in a heady-sweet mix from being mixed around in a paper bag. (the image source was named Scottish Retro Sweets)

I really really loved this whisky, not just because it was unique to find such a light summery orange element in a whisky, but the pure surprise element of this depth and complexity coming from a 4-year old whisky. It’s like the underdog story, distilled and bottled… everyone loves it!

North Star’s official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Lemon citrus & cut-grass. Oddfellows aromatic sweeties
  • Palate: Gingerbread & a lovely clementine
  • Finish: Super summer fruit with a touch of sea salt

Carissa asked the folks at North Star for more insight and this is what Ciara Hepburn had to say:

The Campbeltown in Series 005 was a blended malt, and unfortunately they do not give us information as to what the whisky is made up of. I love bringing this bottle to my tastings as there is usually a few dinosaurs in the room that cannot believe this is only a 4 year old!

We couldn’t agree more! It was a hit and great reminder that terrific whisky can be crafted with just a few years.

For those curious what we paid (before it disappeared from online shelves!), this whisky was purchased from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £37.40 / USD 50 / INR 3,600 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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The Nector of the Daily Drams – Springbank 23 year 50.6%

At La Maison du Whisky in Singapore, we settled down to explore whiskies from The Nector of the Daily Drams.

My companion has more of a peat bent so began with a peaty Springbank.

Springbank 23 year (1994/2017) 50.6%

  • Nose – A bit salty, almost a brine peat and sweet, then some lemon custard, minerals or an earthy element
  • Palate – Nice and rounded on the palate with a solid old school campfire peat, light tobacco with some stewed fruits subtly in the background
  • Finish – Really rather good – long and strong with a delicious light chocolate and almost herbal quality at the end

If you enjoy the peatier Campbeltown style, this one is certainly for you! It has a deceptive complexity that grows on you the more you sip… and yet it is also eminently approachable.

While it is from the “Springbank” distillery, in terms of style, it is what we today know as “Longrow” or the peat line from the Campbeltown distillery.

You won’t find this at a liquor store near you… instead it was last seen on Whisky Auctioneer with the winning bidder parting with £425. Gulp!

We tried it as part of a special evening with Mario of The Nector of the Daily Drams along with:

Curious to try other peaty whiskies from this distillery?

And Springbank’s unpeated avatars:

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Campbeltown’s Springbank 37 year 43%

Once and a while, a rare dram will make an appearance in Mumbai. Such was the case one fine monsoon evening. Our hosts had a rather enviable array of whiskies in their bar and gave me a chance to pick something new to open that evening. As soon as I spotted this one, there was no doubt it was the one to try.

Even more generously, they gave me a chance to take home a sample to share with others, hence it topped off our Campbeltown mini’s evening – like the “show stopper” it was!

Springbank 37 year (May 1970 / January 2005) Cask No1343 Bottle No 630 43% (Chieftain’s)

  • Nose – Green apple, cinnamon, nutty, a bit musty, perfume, fresh fruity fragrant, herbal, bubblegum, rosemary soap, light lavender, lemon grass, cedar, raw white fruit, purple grape soda, citrus orange, dry balsa wood, sour cherry
  • Palate – A lovely spice, so smooth, delicate apple, welcoming, complex
  • Finish – Long strong and gorgeous

Bottom line – it was exceedingly enjoyable – in the category of a whisky you could while away an evening with most companionably. There was an inviting, comforting quality, nuanced, balanced and complex yet in an understated way. We counted ourselves fortunate to have an opportunity to be introduced to such a fine whisky. 

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

As we went back to revisit all our Campbeltown drams, we noted a common thread of sheer drinkability – each was most enjoyable, no off notes, no harshness, with a common theme of vanilla, baked goods with most also having a light citrus fruit.

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