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Bladnoch (pronounced: BLAD-nok) is a success story with a great deal of charm about it. Ignored for many years and eventually closed like so many sadly missed Lowlanders, it has nevertheless found a new lease of life in private ownership and is now a popular favourite amongst whisky aficionados the world over. If youve never tried it, its distinctive lowland elegance is one of the more distinctive tastes in malt whisky and is well worth exploring.
Stills: 1 Wash 1 Spirit
Water Source: Loch Ma Berry
Capacity: 250,000 Litres
Owners: Raymond Armstrong
1960s-1993: Changing Hands and Closure.
Bladnoch stuggled to find a contented owner for a long time, its history is littered with many ownership changes, even into the 1970s it was shifting around until United Distillers (forerunners of Diageo) acquired it in 1983. Despite this rather hectic game of pass the distillery, Bladnoch managed to get expanded in 1966 with two extra stills and the usual production process modernizations. It steadily produced spirit at the rate of roughly 1.2 million liters per year up until its closure in 1993, whereupon the plan was to convert it into a heritage centre.
Bottlings of Bladnoch from this era vary in style and availability. There are several from the eighties and onwards, these are excellent examples of the classic Bladnoch style, full of fresh butter, herbs and very pronounced citrus notes with clear cereal and malty elements as well. Bladnoch is often overlooked as a whisky but it can be exceptionally distinctive and flavoursome while still retaining an elegance and lightness that only seems to be found in certain Lowland distillates. This is an extremely hard feat to pull of and one that makes it a very unique and charming whisky.
In terms of older expressions there are examples from the sixties and even fifties by Cadenheads and G&M. There is a 1958 26yo by Cadenheads that is truly stunning. These bottlings tend to show a much more oily, traditionally old style of malt whisky. They can be drier, more mineraled, fruitier, waxier and more metallic. An official bottling from the mid seventies that is still not too hard to find is a good example of this old style of Bladnoch. A time when it was not so far removed from the more vigorous stylings of fellow lowlander St Magdalene.
1994-Present: New Ownership and New Distillate.
In 1994, after much persusion, Bladnoch was bought by Irishman Raymond Armstrong who set about reworking the distillery. Raymond was under a strict contract with Diageo that stated he was not allowed to produce more the 100,000 litres of spirit per year. As a result Bladnoch now has only two stills and is one of Scotlands smaller, almost seasonal distilling operations.
Production at Bladnoch resumed in 2000 and was done in much the same style as it had been in the early nineties, albeit on a much smaller scale. Raymond did however produce a peated variant from the beginning and some of these casks have since been bottled. The first of the new distillate was bottled in 2006, a peated version, a classic version and a sherry matured version were all made available. The new style of Bladnoch is slightly fuller than the classical style but otherwise retains much similarity, only time will tell however what full maturity will bring.
Bladnoch remains one of Scotlands great and most charming distilleries, with a raft of wonderful bottlings at exceedingly generous prices by comparison to many of its counterparts. Lets hope it continues in exactly the same vein for many years to come.