Another l’il ‘distiller-that-could’ story for ya. Bladnoch was at one time a Diageo holding. In 1993, during the same downturn that saw the loss of Rosebank, Balmenach and Pittyvaich, the distillery was boarded up and had a handful of mothballs rolled into the stillroom. Most equipment was peeled out and for all intents and purposes this seemed the end of the line.
Surprisingly, about a year later the distillery was snatched from the hands of oblivion by an Irish gent named Raymond Armstrong. The arrangement between Diageo to Armstrong was a conditional one however. The terms included the proviso that the distillery was no longer to be used for the production of whisky. Fast forward a few years and much local petitioning to 2000, when the spirit began to flow at Bladnoch once more. Three years (and a day) later, Armstrong was able to claim an end to the gestation period and release his first whisky composed of entirely post-distillery-reopening-stock.
The market currently sees a mix (albeit sparse)of young ‘Armstrong Bladnoch’ and older ‘Diageo Bladnoch’. The interesting thing is that, unlike in most distillery handovers, the Bladnoch transition included no stores of slumbering barrels, effectively leaving the team with a blank slate and no old stocks to support revenue generation. What this means is that new and young Bladnoch releases are courtesy of Armstrong, anything beyond those years (13 and older, I’d say), was produced under a different lord and outside the influence of the current management.
As hinted at above, this is just a wee operation. Capacity of about a quarter million litres, and to be honest with you…I don’t even believe they are flowing that. (Please correct me if I am wrong, as I know there are a couple of Bladnoch fans who visit here).
Anyway…we’re rooting for Bladnoch and hoping to see a bit more hit the shops ’round these parts, as we scarce find bottles on Canadian shores.
Hopefully this changes soon.
In the meantime…a lovely independent offering from the SMWS here to discuss. A neat older one (aged 20 years) from the days before Raymond took over…
Nose: Paint. A healthy ghost of pipe tobacco and smokiness. Herbal and grassy. Peach, orange and lemon pith. Pie crust. Soft white fruits. Cream Of Wheat porridge with sugar. Sugar cookie dough…or maybe shortbread cookie dough.
Palate: Pie…not sure what kind, but sorta tart and fruity. Spice. Syrupy with some apple. Just a smidgeon of orange ju-jube. Oak and grass as it narrows and fades. Gorgeous palate, even better than the nose.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
My “research” which is mainly reading blogs and watching Ralfy videos (including an interview with Raymond Armstrong), is that they were limited contractually to 100 000 litres per year.
A shame really, but I wonder if they invest more carefully in quality casks because they don’t need so many of them.
I’ve really enjoyed the 10 and 11 year old (all single cask, apparently from my correspondence with the distillery – incidentally, they don’t ship to the US, I tried). I am looking forward to the 12 soon.
Curt, I would really like to get your hands on a sample of the Armstrong era stuff. I’d probably enjoy reading your impressions as much as drinking it myself… Maybe I could arrange something over the holidays in December…
That would be brilliant. Appreciate the offer. I’m always looking for an excuse to get together with good people. Let’s find a free eve and shame a dram (or three).
I’ve just received word that the distillery has closed! Within, I think, the last week!
Very few details are available but from what I gathered it seems like financial problems were to blame. Online, the distillery website and forum are working, but the Whisky shop is disabled.
Still bottles available at the online retailers, if you have an address they can ship to. I ordered what might be my last shipment of Bladnoch to my friend in the states. It will increase my supplies by 50% (half of them at his place as he visits to rarely).
If anyone wants to come to Toronto I’d be happy to host a “toast to Raymond and his crew”.
Wow. Need to do some digging now. Gotta find out what happened. Thanks for the ‘heads up’.
Rumours that the distillery is not likely to reopen. This is certainly sad news for whisky enthusiasts. In a time when distilleries are flourishing all over the world…
I’m thankful I have a few bottles in reserve, and a few more that I shipped to my friend, if he ever comes to visit… Designed to last me a few years, now will have to last me a lifetime…
Sadly, not a lot available ’round here. Would love to review a few more, but just gotta hope for some indies to come around at some point.
Sad news indeed, David. I liked the Bladnoch I tried.
My brother in law lives in Calgary and has a full bottle. But I’ve encouraged him to save it for a special occasion. Perhaps in Dec. 2015 when I’m back in town I can bring along a sample….