Glen Scotia just launched an exclusive release for the Netherlands, my home country. The new Glen Scotia 2010 Heavy Charred Finish is a limited batch release of 1918 bottles, a nod to the founding year of importer De Monnik Dranken. The new Glen Scotia 2010 Heavy Charred Finish matured in first-fill and refill bourbon casks before undergoing a finish in first-fill heavy char American oak casks for up to a year. But before we dive into tasting notes, there’s something else I’d like to explore.
Recently I saw someone mentioning Glen Scotia is profiting greatly from its location in Campbeltown. Essentially, this person’s point was that the distillery benefited from the great reputation of Springbank, and to a lesser degree, Kilkerran. At first glance, that seems like a fair point. But is that true?
I think it is safe to say that there’s pretty much no distillery with a better reputation than Springbank. Or at least, I can’t think of one. Its approach is unbelievably old-school and uncommercial, two things that resonate with fans of single malt whisky around the world. To have that approach then also lead to single malt whisky of the highest order, is almost too good to be true. And yet it is.
Largely because of Springbank, the Campbeltown whisky region has an impeccable name. So it is understandable Glen Scotia would embrace that heritage. Also, they’ve been distilling there for nearly two centuries, so why wouldn’t they? Their current master distiller Iain McAlister was born there and grew up just out of town elsewhere on the Kintyre peninsula. The connection to Campbeltown is strong.
When I recently talked to McAlister, he was rightly pointing out the Campbeltown history of Glen Scotia, while also recognising the importance of the other distilleries in town. “Springbank did a fantastic job of keeping our whisky tradition alive”, he said. “Now I feel Campbeltown has developed into an even higher level of first-class whisky, whether it is Springbank, Kilkerran or Glen Scotia. The potential is there for Campbeltown to make a huge impression in the whisky world.”
But even though Glen Scotia has made immense strides since it was taken over by the Loch Lomond Group in 2014, the distillery will always be seen as second rate compared to Springbank, no matter the quality of their whisky. They will never escape the looming shadow of that legendary distillery just a few blocks down. So, what if Glen Scotia was located somewhere else entirely? That might just be very beneficial.
Just imagine Glen Scotia as a distillery on the Isle of Mull, for example. Tobermory is a respected distillery but nowhere near the level of Springbank. Glen Scotia would surely be able to compete with Tobermory? They would never have to live up to the expectations that go with the Campbeltown name and location. Instead they would just produce their funky, weird, hugely interesting spirit elsewhere.
I’m sure people would look at them differently. Just like they would value Tobermory less when that distillery was located in Campbeltown. Sure, their Ledaig spirit is quality stuff and Tobermory comes out with proper whisky every now and again. But they would never beat Springbank in a head-to-head tasting.
In short, I believe Glen Scotia is actually undervalued instead of lifting on the success of others. There’s gems to be found there. And they’re affordable too.
Glen Scotia 2010 Heavy Charred Finish (56.8%, OB, 2021)
Nose: Touches of resin and pine needles. Mashed potatoes too, as well as cloves and some leather, followed by burnt toast and stewed apples. Finally a hint of charred orange peel. The oak is very powerful. Taste: An oily mouthfeel, but pretty dry and plenty of oak. Whiffs of plastic rope, cracked black peppercorn, fennel and coffee grounds. Even some earthy, rooty influences. It’s funky allright. Finish: Menthol, tobacco and lingering spices. Long.
The oak influence is so prominent and overpowering in the Glen Scotia 2010 Heavy Charred Finish, which I generally dislike, yet I quite enjoy what they've done here. It is funky, oaky, different and probably could only have been made at Glen Scotia.