Bladnoch – 25yo 1990 Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection
(Distilled 1990, bottled February 2016, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles, 50.7%)
Bladnoch is one of the few Lowlands distilleries to have survived the 20th century, and not without a great deal of turbulence. It has fallen silent more than once, and changed hands numerous times – most recently to an Australian “yoghurt mogul” who is revamping and relaunching the distillery.
We’ll have to wait a few years to know what this newest incarnation of Bladnoch will be like, but in the meantime there continue to be many older vintages bottled by the indies. In particular there seem to be an awful lot of 1990s around at the minute (the SMWS have been doing at least one a month for some time) and, in my experience, they are almost always excellent, while slightly later ones can be variable and sometimes strangely lactic. Maybe that’s what enticed the antipodean chap. Here, though, is a good example from Cadenhead’s.
Nose: Lovely, and a little idiosyncratic. There’s some lovely sweet citrus: lemon curd (there’s that dairy note, but very much under control and pleasant here) and candied grapefruit. It smells juicy and fresh. Beyond that there’s a butter/sugar/cinnamon thing happening that reminds me of Moroccan pastilla, and some canned pears (one of those beurre types, if you like, to keep the theme). A tiny medicinal touch too: not Islay-style iodine, but more gauze from a first aid box.
Taste: Big, rich butteriness at first, rapidly overtaken by very zesty lemon. There’s some really nice olive oil there too, to complete the Mediterranean feel. Pears again, and some of those orange and lemon boiled sweets with the liquid centre.
Finish: The fruit becomes more tropical: we’re into passionfruit cheesecake territory. I think I even get the biscuit base, but my imagination may be running away with me. In any case it’s a lovely long, fruity, deep finish.
I must have tried a dozen or so of these bourbon hogshead 1990 Bladnochs now, and what’s interesting is how different they can be. For the same distillate filled into the same type of cask at around the same time, I mean. I feel a bit like I should be collecting them all, since stocks will – inevitably – run dry at a certain point. It’s a great plan except, oh yes: money. Wealthy benefactors may feel free to get in touch.
Everyone who’s interested in whisky should have at least one, though, and you can’t go far wrong with this bottling. It’s a textbook example, straight down the middle of a style that I don’t really think you’ll find in many other places – maybe not even at Bladnoch these days. It is also, leaving aside the context, straightforwardly delicious.