Thick, extremely viscous and oily are the immediate take-ways but to that add extremely densely packed with fully formed flavours but also amazingly balanced. Symphonic, if not bombastic whisky.
This is a stone cold classic. And it delivers all of this at 8 years old and for £55. Staggeringly good.
The long winded review…
Very special and common as muck. Perfect.
Over the last few years I’ve started falling out of love with certain aspects of the whisky world. The endless ‘limited editions’ and ‘special’ bottles wear you down and the latest foray into #NFT nonsense by Ardbeg is the cherry on the top. It feels like it’s becoming less about the whisky and more about generating insane levels of FOMO, posting your Unicorn bottle to your ‘gram’ for those precious, precious ’likes’, talking about your whisky room more than your friends and boasting about your latest 'Springer' you snagged by waiting in line from 4am.
I can’t be arsed.
It’s not what I came here for.
I came here to drink whisky.
Those bottles that let you get on with this happy hobby are magical. Even more so when they are ‘limited edition’ but released in a number that means everyone can get a bottle or two (24,000) and at a price nearly everyone can afford (£55 including delivery from the distillery), at cask strength, no colour, no filtering and in a simple cardboard box. (And if you bought from the distillery, a hand signed note saying who packed it on a thank you card). Magical, no?
My first Glen Scotia. Like a recent Ben Nevis, I’d never really given this distillery much thought, but the spec tickled me - I like’m young (8yo), I prefer mainland peat (check) and I love a PX finish. Seemed like a good bet. Off we go…
On the nose I’m up to my knees on the farm. Admittedly one that has seen a recent fire in the manure pile. Smokey rural peat, manure, smoked impregnated oak and smouldering wood beams, some chocolate (only a wee bit, a nibble) and what is this? Jam? yes, Jam smeared on an old leather belt? Weird smells but it’s there. Some sort of fruity jam and salty at the same time - I’m not selling this am I? Salty jam anyone? The peat and ash and richness remind me of Ardmore. But a bit rougher round the edges but not in a bd way, there’s a nice black pepper note in there which mixes really well with the ashy notes. This stuff smells marvellous. A slight mature cheese note? Some nice rich un-rubbed pipe tobacco - in a Dartington glass you can really get your nose in the smell on this one. Like Ardmore I’m getting a creamy mint thing in there. Have I said this is good? There’s a nice feint gingerbread thing going on, too with a sourness, like stale sweat and then some preserved smoked strawberries? A lot to love here and nothing to hate and every time I whack my beak back into the glass it’s shifted a little to reveal something else.
In the mouth. And the arrival is big, loud, turned up to 11. This is not subtle whisky. You can taste the youth but it’s good youth, it’s energetic and spiky, not hot and bland. It’s thick too, the first second or two in the mouth and it’s peaty richness and viscosity and biscuity malty heart arrive all wrapped up in a PX overcoat. And then the flavours really ramp up as it attacks the palate. Lordy! Big flavours explode rather than unfold. Mmmmmmsherry, sweet peat, silage, smoked strawberries? Salty toffee, gingerbread, hot and peppery but not is a bad way, it just lifts the experiment. Like greasy horseradish with some rib of beef. That heat, that zing take it from being pretty nice to OMG! The richness is pretty spectacular for such a young whisky with a short PX finish, I’d have guessed at at least a few years in PX - not so. This tastes like something you’d happily consume when you’re outside in the worst of weather, when the world around you is going to Hell. This would pick you right up, give you a slap and then you’d be back in the game. This is the whisky you drink before you kill Jaws, blow up a Death Star or chuck that damned ring into that volcano. It’s stirring stuff. Inspiring even. It romps like a giddy wet Labrador in a pond. Such heady, youthful exuberance. Winner.
And the finish, well, it’s big and biscuity and rich peat and there’s heat and oak. There’s sherry, old cocoa powder and baking spices and ashy, smoky hearths and heather smoke and, mmmm. Good. Let’s just be happy with that.
So, first Glen Scotia and I feel my chi has been realigned, my whisky downers dismissed and my faith in limited editions done right, restored. This is a great bottle (for me) for so many reasons but the best is that this is great whisky that anyone can buy and enjoy.
Is this what it tastes like without the PX finish?