Glen Scotia is taking its malts festival online again next week – and Peter Ranscombe has had a sneak peak at the whiskies it will serve.
TODAY, Campbeltown is home to just three distilleries – J&A Mitchell & Co’s Springbank and Glengyle, and Loch Lomond Group’s Glen Scotia.
Wind the clock back to the Victorian age though and the Kintyre town hosted some three dozen distilleries.
Not only was it known as the heart of the Scotch industry, but it was also seen as the whisky capital of the world.
Glen Scotia master distiller Iain McAlister drew inspiration from that rich heritage when he was selecting drams to show at next week’s online malt festival.
The series of events, which begins on Monday, follows on from the success of last year’s virtual gathering.
While around 2,000 whisky fans would normally make the three-hour, pre-pandemic pilgrimage by road from Glasgow to Campbeltown, last year’s online events attracted an audience of 10,000.
Glen Scotia is no stranger to bringing a taste of Campbeltown to the masses though.
Back in 2018, its “grand tour” rolled up at the Whisky Fringe, the annual gathering organised by Royal Mile Whiskies at the Mansfield Traquair centre in Edinburgh.
One of the most-popular events at Glen Scotia’s annual festival is its dunnage whisky tasting, at which McAlister presents five drams from specially-selected casks within the warehouse.
This afternoon, he hosted an online press preview, featuring samples from the casts he’ll be using for this year’s virtual tastings, which go live on Monday and are available until the end of the month.
Cask Number 1535 (60.5%)
A first-fill bourbon cask distilled in 2015 provides the benchmark for the dunnage tasting, with heavy sweet – almost confected – vanilla and coconut on the nose, with lighter grassy aromas in the background. On the palate, that sweet vanilla is joined by honey, caramel, red apple, brown sugar, and Campbeltown’s characteristic salty tang, coupled with its tell-tale oily roundess. Adding a drop of water brings out more of the grassy notes on the nose, and turns the vanilla on the palate into marzipan, while highlighting the roast meat on the finish.
Cask Number 2018/257/2 (59%)
Master distiller Iain McAlister paired the introductory first-fill bourbon barrel with three cask finishes, the first of which was distilled in 2018 and combined refill and first-fill bourbon. Deeper gold in colour, with more smoke, coconut, and woody elements on the nose, which are joined by fruitier peach and lemon with a drop of water. Heavy biscuit flavours accompany the vanilla, brown sugar, and fudge on the palate, with the fruit becoming more obvious with water.
Cask Number 2019/618/81 (58.7%)
After time in a refill bourn cask, this 2002 whisky was aged in a first-fill oloroso sherry butt for 18 months. The result is a nutty hit of sweet sherried Christmas cake alongside the brown sugar and caramel aromas, with more orange and lemon notes emerging with the addition of water. There are lovely milk and dark chocolate flavours that are revealed on the palate, alongside the caramel, brown sugar, and nut elements, with water bringing out subtler vanilla tones and chocolate digestives alongside the salt on the finish.
Cask Number 2019/609/80 (53.8%)
Distilled on the same day as the previous sample, the fourth and final dram spent its final 18 months in a ruby port hogshead. There’s much more dark chocolate on the nose, with red cherry and raspberry notes among the caramel and brown sugar aromas. On the palate, there’s a lovely sweetness from the combination of raspberry jam and vanilla, along with a really chewy texture. Water turns the cherry on the nose into more raspberry jam, while also highlighting the brown sugar on the palate.
Read more of Peter’s whisky, beer, and wine reviews on his blog, The Grape & The Grain