Last week the Malt Nuts invited me back for another great meeting and the theme of this one was closed West Coast Lowlands distilleries. As always there was a set focus and it wasn’t just a smattering of what everyone could find; there was a set guest list for our glasses. Also like all of the other Malt Nuts events it started out with some tasty food at our gracious hosts house, so a big thanks to our host for the evening.
The two distilleries we focused on for this meeting were Bladnoch and Inverleven with a single Ladyburn showing up at the end. Bladnoch being a recent closure was the opening act. Inverleven being far more rare, and having been closed for much longer, was the main event with Ladyburn making a guest appearance. As always the bottles were blinded and all we knew was that we were tasting Bladnoch in the first round and Inverleven in the second round. If you’re not familiar with either of these distilleries (and unless you’re a Malt Nut or whisky nerd why would you be?) I’ve included a quick write up about each below.
Bladnoch – Founded in 1825 and closed in 2014 while new owners for the distillery are being searched for. Though like many distilleries it spent its fair share of time being mothballed during its lifetime and was closed from 1949 – 1957 and then closed again sometime in the late 1980s / early 1990s until 2000. During it’s life Bladnoch was mostly used for blends with a few OB releases over the years and most of those distillery releases showed up between 2009 – 2014.
Inverleven – Built in 1938 and mothballed in 1991, Inverleven wasn’t so much a distillery as it was a set of 2 stills inside of the Dumbarton Grain Distillery. Also inside the distillery was a single still used to make Lomond both of which were used in the Ballantine’s blend. Having a fairly short life and being mostly used for blends there aren’t many bottles of it floating around out there, but keep your eye out, because they do make appearances in weird places from time to time.
Ladyburn – Only open for 9 years, Ladyburn was founded in 1966, closed in 1975 and demolished in 1976. Ladyburn was owned by William Grant & Sons and, like Inverleven, wasn’t a standalone distillery. It was a set of post stills inside the Girvan grain distillery. There were a few distillery released bottles around 2000, but other than that the only way to find it is through NDPs and due to it’s very short lifespan bottles are getting harder (thus more expensive) to come by.
Bladnoch Tasting Notes
B1) Bladnoch 11 Years Old
ABV: 51.5% Cask Strength
- Nose: Tart tropical fruit, dark fruit and a touch of malt followed by mild notes of vanilla, spice and raw spirit.
- Palate: Red fruit and overripe tropical fruit with lighter notes of dark sweets like toffee and caramel. There is a dark sulfury undertone riding against it.
- Finish: Medium and fruity with notes of grassy malt and a bit of the dark funk from the palate.
- Overall: B- (80-81) Palate is a little flat, but the nose has an overall nice aroma to it. The dark almost sulfury notes help balance the fruitier notes, but it still doesn’t quite come together for me.
B2) Blackadder Raw Cask 1992 Bladnoch 20 Years Old
ABV: 48.1% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Sharp notes of fruit pierce through first followed by lighter notes of malt, wood, char and a dark earthy undertone.
- Palate: Rich and fruit with notes of honey, graham and light bit of wheat toast.
- Finish: Medium with notes of fruit, citrus peel and spice.
- Overall: B (83-86) The nose falls short of the palate this time and I’m finding it hard to be able to sit back an enjoy it. I keep feeling like something is missing here and so I’m spending a lot of time searching for it.
B3) Bladnoch 23 Years Old
ABV: 44.4% Cask Strength
- Nose: Fruit juice, dried red berries, citrus and raisins with notes of wood and dust.
- Palate: Dark and fruity with notes of graham and wood and a light touch of spice.
- Finish: Medium fade of dried fruit, muffins, wood, spice and dust. A bit on the dry side.
- Overall: B (83-86) I’d put this one in the low to middle of the Bs. It’s not really interesting, but not wholly uninteresting either.
B4) Bladnoch – Young Bladnoch (peated)
ABV: 61.3% Cask Strength
- Nose: Fruit, vanilla, peat and char.
- Palate: Fruit, vanilla, peat and char.
- Finish: Medium fade of fruit, vanilla, peat and char.
- Overall: B- (81-82) High end of the B-. The peat in it is rich enough and balanced out enough to keep it interesting despite not being very complex, which is really its biggest downfall. The lack of complexity is the only thing really hurting this one; peated Bladnoch is pretty good.
Inverleven Tasting Notes
A1) Gordon & Macphail Reserve 1991 Inverleven 16 Years Old
ABV: 46% Cask: 500604 Distilled: 1991 Bottled: 2007
- Nose: Sulfury fruit, burnt butterscotch, caramel and dark spice with some earthy undertones and light bit of apple core.
- Palate: Fruit, caramel, and a dark woody earthiness. A light undertone of funk and dusty spice.
- Finish: Medium and darkly fruity with notes of wood and funk
- Overall: C+ (77-79) The dark sulfury funk throws it off balanced and ends up coming off very dark overall. I like a bit of sulfur in my whisky, but this was way too much.
A2) Scott’s Selection 1979 Inverleven 25 Years Old
ABV: 58.0% Cask Strength Distilled: 1979 Bottled: 2004
- Nose: Fruit, soda water, syrupy dark sweets and grassy malt with woody notes and a light root beer spice.
- Palate: Sweet and fruity with notes of vanilla, caramel, malted milk balls and a touch of dark sweets like toffee and butterscotch.
- Finish: Fruity mineral water that fades out a medium pace with notes of vanilla and dark sweets popping up along the way.
- Overall: B (83-86) The dark fruitiness is great and balances well with the malty and woody notes and it ends up coming together as a nice sipping whisky.
A3) Duncan Taylor 1977 Inverleven 26 Years Old
ABV: 53.7% Cask Strength Distilled: 09-1977 Bottled: 03-2003
- Nose: Richly fruity with notes of dark sweets, graham cracker and mineral water. Light touch of floral notes with a warm woody underpinning.
- Palate: Rich fruit, dark sweets, some nice oaky notes and a bit of dark, sulfur-like, funk. Lighter notes of mineral water, malty sweetness and graham crackers hang out in the background; a bit of aspirin shows up towards the end.
- Finish: A bit chalky and dry, but overall it’s a nice long finish of dark fruit, dark sweets, wood and floral notes.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) This is a really nice, full flavored and nuanced whisky. It takes some time to open up, but a few drops of water help it along and once it does the darker funkier notes move more towards the back and let the rich dark sweet and fruity notes come out more.
Ladyburn Tasting Notes
C1) Signatory Vintage Rare Ayrshire (Ladyburn) 37 Years Old
ABV: 48.5% Cask Strength Distilled: 10-24-1975 Bottled: 09-06-2013 Cask: ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Buttery fruit, hay, baklava, cantaloupe and rose petals move out in a pleasant daisy chain. Lighter notes of citrus and melon come and go with each passing sniff.
- Palate: Buttery fruit, dark sweets, citrus peel and hints of melon. Some light notes of butterscotch and spice hang out in the background but don’t have a strong presence overall.
- Finish: Long slow fade of dark sweets, butterscotch, spice and wood.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) This one might even be a 90, it’s a really nice and balanced whisky that’s fun to sip. There’s something comforting about this whisky, but at the same time it seems like it’s holding back. i bet with some air and time this one would blossom and become even more fantastic.
What a night ‘eh? A chance to taste through some rare juice that isn’t flowing any more and in the case of Inverleven hasn’t been flowing for a while. Hope you enjoyed the write up and are looking forward to the next event almost as much as I am!