Bought: Waitrose, 11th November 2019
87/100 – Whisky Bible 2020
81.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
As part of Glen Scotia distillery’s revamp they release a non-age statement (NAS) single malt called ‘Double Cask’ in 2015. For £30 it was 46% and matured in 1st fill bourbon & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Sounds good? Well I certainly thought so when I tried it. Jim Murray rated it 85.5/100 in his Whisky Bible book and it currently scores 82.1/100 on Whiskybase from 387 votes. Not bad. Not bad at all.
The ‘Double Cask’ left such a good impression on me that when I spotted the new ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ NAS release in 2019 I had to have it, especially reduced to £25 at Waitrose supermarket. It’s matured exclusively in 1st fill bourbon casks and at 40% rather than 46% it’s a different beast entirely to the ‘Double Cask’. You’d think with the lower ABV and less complex maturation that it might be inferior to the ‘Double Cask’ but Jim Murray doesn’t think so in his 2020 ‘Whisky Bible’. He rates the ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ 1.5 points higher than the ‘Double Cask’ and summarises with “this is very flat and far too caramel dependent, though the mix of saltiness and gentle sweetness is highly attractive. The smoke unfurls at the very finish….but for all its easy attractiveness, it is all a little docile and tame”. Not exactly complimentary but 87/100 rates the dram overall as a “very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying”. Especially if you can get it on sale for £25!
With only 16 votes on Whiskybase after nearly 2 years, I’m a little suspicious that the ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ had a very limited distribution. Whiskybase only list Waitrose as a supplier in the UK (where I bought it), then two shops in Holland and one in Poland. It’s nice to have found something so exclusive but it means there isn’t a review on YouTube. Comments online about the Glen Scotia ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ include “quite a nice malt for very understandable money”, “kind of tasty, but too little of everything”, and “what a great find, incredibly smooth and bursting with sweet and savoury flavours. Top notch.”
Official tasting notes from Glen Scotia:
Nose: Briny sea spray, perfumed floral notes of violet and lavender and vanilla
Palate: Fruity and sweet. Soft peach and green apple followed by toffee fudge and vanilla custard
Finish: Dry, medium length. Tangy peat complements maritime character
Bought: Auriol Wines, 1st September 2017
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 125 member votes)
4.5/5 – Master of Malt (average from 20 reviews)
When I think of ‘Glen Scotia’ I remember the dumpy green bottles of 8-year-old from the 1970s, or the colour-coated bottles when I started collecting whisky in 2013. I quite liked the look of the black 12yo, green 15yo, blue 18yo and burgundy 21yo but the poor ratings stopped me for buying any of them. The general consensus seemed to be that Glen Scotia had made a flavour and marketing boo-boo.
You wouldn’t think that NAS (non-age statement) would be the best direction for the Campbeltown distillery to go but that’s what happened with the arrival of the ‘Double Cask’ in 2015. It was a bit of a gamble but it seems to have paid off. Scoring 85.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies this dram as ‘very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying’. He summarises with “soft and easy drinking with an excellent early delivery spike of intensity. But a dull middle and finish. And dull has never been a word I have associated with this distillery. Ever.”
Scoring 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score with comments of “whoever likes the modern “designed” whisky style will probably enjoy this dram”, “nice daily dram, but not overly spectacular”, “a good whisky if a little vague” and “very fine Glen Scotia for around 40 EUR. Surprisingly good and affordable.”
From my own tasting of the Glen Scotia ‘Double Cask’ I can honestly say I like it. It’s certainly subtle but you wouldn’t expect anything else for the price. I enjoyed the “excellent early delivery” Jim Murray mentioned but then I got hit by that unique Campbeltown flavour on the palate. It’s not as intense as the Springbank 10yo but it’s there and very enjoyable. If I drank Campbeltown whisky regularly it wouldn’t seem that special but, as an occasional dram from a distinct Scottish region, the Glen Scotia is delightful.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Vibrant fruit emerges first (peach flesh and green apple peels), followed by chewy vanilla fudge, a hint of salinity, then an array of oak-y spices including some char.
Palate: Opens with more fudge with a little dusting of powdered sugar. Powerful, oily and a touch herbaceous with some German brandy character.
Finish: Sherried notes come through more on the finish.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Glen Scotia on YouYube (Aug 2015):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 8th November 2016
75.33/100 – Whiskybase (from 3 member votes – 43%, 70cl version)
The Whisky Exchange are currently selling the Royal Culross 8yo for £99.95 where they say “The blend was compiled by A Gillies & Co, then-owners of Glen Scotia, hence the similar bottle style. We estimate this bottle dates from the 1980s.” It can make between £35-£45 at auction with a box but as little as £20 without.
On the back of the bottle it says in a flowery script “By appointment. This warrant shall signify that A. Gillies & Co (Distillers) Ltd. Glasgow Scotland are appointed suppliers of Royal Culross Scotch Malt Whisky to the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of The Royal Burgh of Culross, Fifeshire. Granted this day, 23rd April 1972.” Below this is an indecipherable signature of the provost, perhaps written after sampling some of the whisky.
I found an online whisky shop saying a bottle of Royal Culross was from the 1960s but clearly the blend only started to appear in the 1970s. Both a US and UK website for trademarks have A Gillies & Co registering ‘Royal Culross’ in 1974. The trademark expired in the mid 1990s. The UK website lists trademarks going back to 1876 with no mention of ‘Royal Culross’ before 1974.
Trying to find out more about the Royal Culross blend has proved quite tricky. Scoring a fraction over 75/100 on Whiskybase suggests quite an average whisky but what has gone into the blend? Clearly Glen Scotia malt is possible but the distillery was inactive for most of the 1980s. A. Gillies & Co became part of Amalgamated Distilled Products (ADP) from 1970 who bought Littlemill in 1982 before becoming part of Argyll Group in 1984. But Littlemill closed between 1984 and 1989, much like Glen Scotia. That’s not to say stock wasn’t being used for blends during this period. ADP also produced other whisky such as the Burberry blend.
Not that any of this matters to me because I bought this bottle because I like the dumpy shape and love the 1980s. Let’s just hope the taste is more inline with Bon Jovi than Sigue Sigue Sputnik!
Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014
81/100 – Whisky Bible 2009
79/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 1 reviewer)
In the Whisky Bible 2014 there’s a new version of this “aged 12 years” Glen Scotia. I had to go back to my 2009 bible to find the rating and the story. Although 81/100 is a reasonable mark, Jim Murray says it’s “murder by Caramel”. But without the addition of caramel, Jim would have scored it in the high 80s. Apparently there’s something about it that is very appealing but being slightly ruined by the caramel.
In the 2014 bible, the new version of this 12yo gets 89/100, has no added caramel, is unchill-filtered and has risen to a pleasant 46%. You have to wonder if Glen Scotia distillery listened to Jim’s review in 2009 and made appropriate changes. I’m tempted to track down the new version and save this miniature for a taste comparison.
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 22nd December 2013
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 1 review)
I’ve been thinking that my collection is complete and I own a single malt from every active Scottish distillery but this Glen Scotia could be a fly in the ointment. Until recently I believed if anything was called ‘pure malt’ it was one of the old ways of describing a blend. I then kept stumbling across vintage bottles of Glen Scotia from the 1980s in auctions and certain online shops where ‘pure malt’ was being labelled as ‘single malt’. I then read on Malt Madness that both blends and single malts are effectively ‘pure malt’. CONFUSED!
I’ve attempted to find out if Glen Scotia were issuing a blend around the 1980s and, if so, what they called it but I’ve drawn a blank. I’ve had to take a guess with the rating from Malt Maniacs because my bottle looks like the 8yo from the 1980s but it’s missing the 8yo label. I may have to bite the bullet and buy another example of Glen Scotia where it clearly states “single malt” on it.