This should turn out to be a very interesting review. If not for you, than certainly for me. Mr Bladnoch, Raymond Armstrong has a lot of fans, just have a look at the forum Bladnoch has. When looking around, this 8yo is considered to be very nice. Also, when you have a look at the average score for this bottle on Whiskybase it turns out to be 86.5 points (8 ratings).
I mention all this, because my bottle of 8yo was officially opened at a gathering of my whisky club last saturday and this Bladnoch was considered to be the worst of the day/evening! Auch! So I gave it a few days and will taste it again now in all tranquility (only some Flower Kings on the stereo). What is wrong, is the whisky bad, or were we doing something else than a proper tasting saturday? We’ll soon find out…
Nose: Malty and definitively nothing wrong at first nosing. Hint of smoke and butter. Grassy. It smells like it has a more than a light body (for a Lowlander), clean and honest. The butter evolves over time. Mr. Brilleman of the Dutch Whisky Information Centre (WICN), thought us that this is a distillation error, (which sometimes can smell nice). It’s not overpowering so no problem here for me. Hints of sour wood and powdery. Also slightly fruity. It smells like it will be very sweet and buttery.
Taste: Starts very strangely, like new make, and some woody spice. A little bit soapy and fatty. Sure there are some grassy notes, but not as I’d come to expect from a Lowlander. It’s like the grass turns a bit bitter. I find the taste to be unbalanced to boot, and seems to me as if some feints that found their way into the cask aren’t completely transformed by ageing. I guess this should have been in the cask for a longer while. I also don’t detect any citrussy notes which would make the whisky more refreshing.
After giving the whisky some time to breathe it gets somewhat more balanced and friendlier, some nice spices shine through, with just the right amount of wood. It just doesn’t shed its new-make-and-wood finish.
Adding water added even more balance to the nose, and that’s definitively all right. The palate however got even more simple. Fatty wood and slightly bitter. I’m glad most people like this, because Raymond deserves his success with this own distillation of Bladnoch since the take over. This unfortunately just wasn’t for me. But I’ll find me another one…
By the way the Beltie label should mean this was from Bourbon Barrels. (The Sheep label was used for Hogsheads). Sometimes, both labels were used for Sherry Butts though.
May 25, 2015 [UPDATE]. Now that the bottle is almost empty I feel I have to add something to my additional review. Reading back my notes, the nose is pretty much the same, but I feel the taste has changed, or maybe I have changed. The taste is more balanced, still buttery, but sweet and better integrated. The new make is no longer there. Fresh oak, giving spice and grass. Quite a transformation when it got a long time to breathe. Hurray! First time around it wasn’t for me, and I tried to sell it, but nobody wanted it. I’m happy I still have it. It came ’round nicely. With water the grass and spice got even better and a honeyed note enters the fold, Nice!
New score: 83