Category Archives: Bladnoch

Bladnoch ‘Samsara’ 200th Anniversary

Bought: Master of Malt, 4th September 2017

82.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

Bladnoch distillery celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2017 and the new owner (David Prior) decided to release 3 commemorative bottles, the Samsara (NAS), Adela 15yo and Talia 25yo. Unfortunately they weren’t new because they’d already been released in 2016. The only clear difference I can see is that the re-release in 2017 now had “Celebrating 200 years” at the bottom of the bottle label. I gave my wife a food blender for our 24th wedding anniversary last year and I gave her the same blender this year with “happy 25th anniversary!” on it. I’m now single. I jest of course. 🙂

It was mostly this lazy attempt to celebrate Bladnoch’s 200th birthday that caused me to delay getting the Samsara. Not that it was likely to sell out because demand for the distillery seems quite low. Although the Samsara is NAS (non-age statement) it’s said to be over 8-years-old as the last spirit distilled at the distillery was in 2008. The 2016 release scored 79/100 on Whiskybase from 30 member votes so 82.7/100 for the 2017 is a clear improvement. Although both are 46.7% (a good strength) the 2017 version is matured in Californian red wine and bourbon casks. Maturation isn’t mentioned for the 2016 edition, so perhaps there’s a difference there. If nothing else the Samsara 2017 could have 9-year-old whisky as a base instead of the 8-year-old for the 2016 release.

So why did I get the Samsara? Having bought bottles to celebrate 200 years of Lagavulin and Laphroaig it didn’t seem right not to support Bladnoch and its ‘rebirth’ (the meaning of the word ‘Samsara’). Not only that but reviews have improved for the Samsara and for just over £60 this 8yo+ comes in a beautiful decanter-style bottle and sturdy display box. Both reviews left on Master of Malt consider the Samsara to be good value for money although I notice the price has increased to over £70. Tut tut!

Tasting notes from Bladnoch:

Nose: Quite concentrated, fruit compote, with plums, vanilla and orange blossom.
Palate: A sweet winey start, then drying slightly before more plums and vanilla flavours, some citrus and a malty core. Nicely structured.
Finish: Mellow and winey with a spicy, lingering tail.

Here’s Horst Luening of with his thoughts on YouTube (July 2017):

Bladnoch 25-year-old (SMWS 50.71)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 30th November 2015

92/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Bladnoch closed in 1993. In 1994 dynamic Irishman Raymond Armstrong spotted the mothballed distillery when he was on holiday in the Lowlands and he decided to buy it. Lots of work had to be done, which meant whisky production didn’t start again until 2000. Sadly the distillery went into liquidation in 2014 putting the future of Bladnoch in the balance. Thankfully a successful Australian businessman, David Prior bought Bladnoch in July 2015. In September he announced on the distillery’s Facebook page (which hadn’t been updated in over 2 years) that he’d appointed Ian Macmillan as the new master distiller and blender. Another announcement on 24th December proclaimed the arrival of new single malts in 2016. The future is looking good for Bladnoch once more!

Having said all that about the distillery’s recent history, my bottle by the SMWS entitled ‘Alfresco brunch’ was distilled in 1990, back when Bladnoch were under the ownership of United Distilleries. Someone clearly loves it on Whiskybase with a vote of 92/100. The house style is light-bodied, dry, fruity, fresh, floral and grassy. The SMWS description below mentions a meadow, so there’s the grass element, but bacon, gingerbread and salami don’t sound overly typical of a standard Bladnoch. It goes to show how varied each cask can be!

“We were having a Picnic Brunch in a meadow; the sun had almost burnt off the morning dew and we were looking forward to a glorious day outside. Out of the basket came smoked salmon, gravlax and a bowl of fresh watermelon and Cantaloupe salad with mint and basil vinaigrette. The taste was satisfyingly sweet, like dipping a wooden spoon into a jar of heather honey or a glass of delicious viscous mead. Just a drop of water and meaty aromas appeared; eggs Benedict with bacon, gingerbread pancakes with Parma ham and the taste turned into a spicy salami pizza.”

Bladnoch 25yo SMWS 50.71 70cl

Bladnoch 2001 13-year-old, Single Cask, 53.1%

Bought: Demijohn, 27th May 2015

None as yet.

I was all set to buy a bottle of Bladnoch 20yo (Sheep Label) from Holland for £42 earlier this year when I discovered the distillery was in liquidation. Before I could blink the whisky had sold out and I’ve not seen it since. Even if I did it wouldn’t be for £42, which was ridiculously cheap at the time. But all whisky collectors can feel my pain. With so many distilleries and bottles out there it’s impossible to be ready to pounce on every good deal you see. I have a budget and some months I’ve spent it all by the end of the first week! These days I’ve stopped looking at whisky shops when I’ve spent my budget so I avoid temptation. Anyone would think I was an addict! 😉

Thankfully Demijohn came to the rescue and I selected one of their quaint, squiggly bottles to contain a cask-strength Bladnoch they had available (sadly no more). The website details for this 13-year-old were:

“This delightful single malt whisky is from cask no.130, filled on 30th May 2001. It is one of the first few casks produced by Armstrong Brothers’ Raymond and Colin at their Bladnoch Distillery after taking ownership from United Distillers in 2000.”

Bladnoch 2001 13yo 10cl

Bladnoch 2001 12-year-old, Single Cask, 55.2%

Bought: Demijohn, 27th May 2015

None as yet.

I love whisky and I like curious bottle shapes, so buying from Demijohn is a match made in heaven. You select what liquid you want and then the size and shape of the bottle you want it in. I first bought from Demijohn back in September 2013 when I got an 11yo Bladnoch. Since then the Armstrong brothers no longer own the distillery and I’m not sure what the latest news is on its fate. Finding bottles of Bladnoch suddenly became difficult as collectors and enthusiasts dived in. Thankfully I discovered that Demijohns had added a new 12yo and 13yo to their website. The details for this 12yo were given as:

“This delightful single malt whisky is from cask no.227, filled on 28th September 2001. It is one of the first few casks produced by Armstrong Brothers’ Raymond and Colin at their Bladnoch Distillery after taking ownership from United Distillers in 2000.”

Sadly this whisky has sold out and it’s so obscure it’s not even listed on Whiskybase. Would it make a good investment? Probably not because the seal can be easily removed and resealed (it’s very basic) but I’ve seen plenty of bottles sell at auction where this is also possible. Yet another reason I don’t like whisky auctions because it seems to be a case of ‘buyer beware!’

Bladnoch 2001 12yo 10cl

Bladnoch 8-year-old (1980s)

Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 4th December 2013

85/100 – Whisky Fun (October 2005)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 6 reviewers)

Usually it’s very difficult to trace an old bottle of whisky back to when it was first produced (if it doesn’t have a distillation date on the label) but, thanks to Whisky Fun and Malt Maniacs, I was able to identify this bottle as ‘late 1980s’. Saying that, I don’t know when this version of Bladnoch stopped being produced – damn! But, as Bladnoch was closed in 1993, and not reopened again until 2000, I know this bottle wasn’t produced after 1993.

This is my 2nd example from Bladnoch distillery, my first being an 11-year-old distilled in 2001 shortly after Bladnoch was relaunched under new management. It will be interesting to compare the new with the old. The Whisky Fun review of this 1980s bottle says “Excellent, very typically Bladnoch, I’d say”. So it’s nice to know this small bottle provides a taste history of what Bladnoch used to be like.

Bladnoch 8yo 5cl

Bladnoch Single Cask 11-year-old

Bought – Demijohn, 4th September 2013

Quote about the whisky from Demijohn: “This delightful single malt whisky is from cask no. 317, filled on 12th December 2001. It is one of the first few casks produced by Armstrong Brothers’ Raymond and Colin at their Bladnoch Distillery after taking ownership from United Distillers in 2000.”

Bladnoch SingleCask 2001 10cl