Thursday 1 April 2021

Side by side : Glen Scotia Campbeltown Malts Festival Releases

For the past four years Glen Scotia distillery have released a Campbeltown Malts Festival  'Limited Edition' - for this review I've decided to review the new 10yo against it's predecessors.

Let's just say, right from the start, that the 2020 has set a very high bar!

Each year, in May, the distilleries in Campbeltown, the whiskiest place in the world, hold a Malts Festival, this year would have been the 13th.

Although not always the best of friends(!) the three Campbeltown distilleries Glengyle, Glen Scotia and Springbank work together to put on an amazing festival, but due to the coronavirus, it's had to be cancelled again this year. Instead a virtual festival will take place - more details here!

Glen Scotia Day 2019 - Photo: The Whisky Shop

This 2021 release is the 4th Campbeltown Malts Festival bottle from Glen Scotia, it's a combination of 2009, 2010 and 2011 unpeated spirit matured 100% in 1st fill bourbon before being finished for 5 months in Medoc Bordeaux red wine casks. After the wine casks the whisky was married in refill bourbon barrels for a further 2 months before bottling.

Distillery tasting notes:
Nose: Crushed red berries, floral notes of rose and violet with heather honey and maritime breeze.
Palate: Opens on a honeyed sweetness with vibrant strawberry and apple, lime citrus and toasted oak vanilla.
Finish: Long with warming spice of cinnamon and aniseed.

Soon after the release of the 4th in the series I met up with a few mates to taste it side by side with the previous festival releases:

@GascoyneNick, @MaltMusings, @LLBlender & @WhiskyResource

Let see how they all compared!

2008 MP
Ruby Port Finish
2003 HP
Rum Cask Finish
14yo HP
Tawny Port Cask Finish
10yo UP
Bordeaux Wine Cask Finish
Characteristics57.8% ABV
Natural colour, NCF

2008 Vintage
Medium peated, distilled Feb 2008, 1st fill bourbon original maturation, 3-4 month finish in first fill ruby port.

2,400 bottles
51.3% ABV
Natural colour, NCF

2003 Vintage
Heavily peated distilled, Feb/Mar 2003, refill American oak hogsheads, 7 months 1st fill Guyana rum barrels.

9,500 bottles
52.8% ABV
Natural colour, NCF

14yo combination of 2004 heavily peated refill American hogsheads, 2005 heavily peated medium charred American barrels and 2006 medium peated 1st fill bourbon barrels, 7-8 months 1st fill tawny port.

15,000 bottles
56.1% ABV
Natural colour, NCF

10yo combination of 2009, 2010 and 2011 unpeated 1st fill bourbon barrel, 5 months 1st fill Red Bordeaux wine casks

20,000+ bottles from 83 wine hogsheads
Distillery notesThis limited edition single malt from Glen Scotia has been bottled for the 2018 Campbeltown Malts Festival, which takes place in May each year. This expression is distilled from peated barley and matured for ten years with six months in ruby port pipes, before bottling at a natural cask strength of 57.8% abv.

The nose is salty, with Campbeltown's distinctive sea spray and more fruity notes from the port pipes. The palate is sweet with salty aspects at full strength, while the finish is spicy with smoky notes.
This limited edition single malt from Glen Scotia was distilled from peated barley in 2003 and matured for a full fifteen years, including time in a Guyanan rum puncheon, before being bottled at a natural cask strength of 51.3% abv in celebration of the Campbeltown Malts Festival 2019.

The nose is sweet and fruity with a slight prickle and rich plum notes. The palate brings more sweet fruits with a maritime salt aspect, rum toffee and a distinctive peat note in the finish.
The Glen Scotia ‘Tawny Port’ Festival Edition is a peated Campbeltown Malt that has been matured in a mix of refill American hogsheads, medium char American oak and first fill bourbon barrels before being finished in first fill Tawny Port hogsheads and then bottled at cask strength 52.8% ABV.
Finished for 7 months in first fill Tawny Port Hogsheads, this truly limited edition has a perfectly balanced combination of Campbeltown maritime influence with soft smoky peat and blackberries from the Tawny Port influence.

Nose : Blackberry, floral notes of rose and ocean spray. 
Palate : Silky mouthfeel, crisp green apple, peach syrup and vanilla with a honey sweetness.
Finish : Gentle peat smoke with blackcurrant, raspberry and clove spice
To celebrate the Campbeltown Malts Festival 2021, we are releasing a 10 year old, unpeated single malt. Matured initially in first-fill bourbon barrels and then finished in first fill Medoc Bordeaux red wine casks. 

Bottled at 56.1%, this single malt combines the Glen Scotia distillery character of maritime influence, fruity notes with a hint of spice, married with succulent red berries, citrus and sweet honey. 

Nose: Crushed red berries, floral notes of rose and violet with heather honey and maritime breeze.
Palate: Opens on a honeyed sweetness with vibrant strawberry and apple, lime citrus and toasted oak vanilla.
Finish: Long with warming spice of cinnamon and aniseed.
My thoughts: 
Medium gold in the glass, swirls cling as a thin line, slowly bead up and fall as slow thin legs.Light gold in the glass, swirls form a thin line of beads which fall as slow thin legs.Reddy gold in the glass, swirls cling to the glass, beads form an inverted crown and eventually fall as slow thick legs.Pinky gold in the glass, swirls cling as a thin line, slowly bead up and fall as slow thick legs.
NoseGentle peat smoke alongside the Glen Scotia salinity character. Berries - strawberries, black berries and raspberries are there but you really have to search for them - a little water helps bring them to the fore.Medicinal peat smoke, brown sugar, orchard fruit - apples, pears, apricots. The Glen Scotia salinity is missing.Peat smoke and maritime salt notes - bonfire on a beach. Hints of tropical fruit - pineapple and peach. Then berry notes start to come through -strawberries, raspberries and some blackberries.A fruit salad on the nose - berries, orchard fruit, tropical fruit and that Glen Scotia salinity - but no smoke! There's some spearmint notes and a little black pepper spice.
PalateThick oily arrival, fruity, smoky and salty all in one - a big ABV to start the night on but that soon calms down. Sweet honey covers apples, peaches and pears, some berries and a ginger spice. A little water massively improves this dram bringing the berries out a little more.The ABV has dropped a little here but while still substantial the dram has lost some body. Very sweet and very dry, surprisingly light smoke notes mix with tropical fruit, ginger spice and parma violets.
This is just a little too sweet for me.
Thick oily arrival, huge sweet berry fruit notes from the nose, sea salt and then a huge wave of sweet smoke. Blackberries, strawberries, black cherries, dates and some dark chocolate. There's a nice citrus fizz as the liquid disappears.Dry sweet arrival, there's a little oily salinity then huge sweet fruit notes -  strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, blackberries and a hint of vanilla. There's a little citrus fizz and a big bite of peppery spice too.
This is like fruit pop - very moreish!
FinishLong dry smoky finish with icing sugar notes, ginger spice and seaweed.Lip tingling spice and sweet tropical fruit notes.Long lingering smoke, berry fruit and citrus notes in balance with a hint of the ginger spice.Dry sweet and fruity with a lingering peppery spice.
OverallGlen Scotia produce unpeated and two styles of peated whisky - Medium peated at around 25PPM and Heavily peated at around 50PPM and this all goes into Bourbon casks - a mixture of first fill, refill and recharred. Once matured the casks are shipped to Loch Lomond's warehouses in Alexandria for any finishing.

What we have here with the Festival Releases are Campbeltown matured whiskies finished in port, rum and wine casks.

The medium peated Ruby Port kept most of the oily fruity salinity notes we expect from Glen Scotia, the short time in the finish cask adding some berry top notes which came more apparent with the addition of a little water.

The heavily peated Rum spirit, I think, had lost a lot of that distillery character after it's seven months of finishing - the Guyanan rum puncheon covering with huge sweet tropical notes, even a little water didn't help. The medicinal smoke notes were a little surprising as you don't normally get them from Glen Scotia.

What more is there to say about the Tawny Port (!) my favourite dram of 2020. The 75% Heavily / 25% Medium peated combination producing a robust smoky whisky which kept it's Glen Scotia DNA and was enhanced with 7-8 months in Tawny Port adding berry notes.

I'll admit I was very disappointed when I heard that the 2021 release was going to be unpeated wine, I'd tried Glen Scotia peated wine before and whilst it was good it wasn't great. When the bottle arrived I opened it with trepidation - was this going to be another 11yo Sherry Double - the first Glen Scotia I haven't liked - a marmite whisky. A couple of glasses in and all my fears have been taken away - the Bordeaux Wine is lovely, alcoholic fruit pop, it's got all of the Glen Scotia DNA, in fact it has similar notes to the Tawny Port just without the peat smoke.

For me the Tawny Port still comes out top, the Bordeaux Wine is a close second, the Ruby trails a little in third (but water helps) with the Rum in fourth (just too sweet for me).

Many thanks to Mark for the Ruby & Rum samples and Nick & Michael for joining is a great tasting!

Photo: @JasonGilluley

Photo: @WhiskyResource

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