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Glen Scotia (pronounced: glen SCO-sha) is regarded by some as pretty rubbish while it inspires loyal affection in others, it certainly seems to be quite a polarizing malt. Not well known about by casual whisky drinkers it has long been branded the other Campbeltown distillery. While not as majestic or cult inspiring as neighbour Springbank and often more inconcsistent in its product, there are many excellent bottlings of it to be found. Indeed it remains quite a distinctively coastal and flavorsome make that is becoming a rarity in Scotland these days.
Glen Scotia Distillery
Stills: 1 Wash 1 Spirit
Water Source: Crosshill Loch
Capacity: 750,000 Litres
Owners: Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd
1965-1984: Slow Reconstruction
Glen Scotia wasnt modernised until later than most distilleries and when it happened it was done at a fairly leisurely pace between 1979 and 1982. This partly exlplains the slightly more old style nature of bottings from the mid seventies and before. Glen Scotias character is quite a fresh, green and lively one, while not as big on the coastal notes as that other distillery nest door, it does show some lovely gingery, salty tang in most bottlings. The best examples are lightly fruity, citrusy and herbaceous with attractive mineral notes and touches of biscuit and honey. The best aged expressions come from Malts Of Scotland with a pair of great 1972s, Cheiftans and Signatory with a lovely 1966 sherry cask bottling.
The distillery was temporarily mothballed in 1984 and did not reopen till 1989.
1989-Present: Trips And Stumbles
Glen Scotia has not had the best of luck in recent years. It was operated between 1989 and 1994 when it again fell silent until 1999. When it restarted it was run temporarily by the team from Springbank, they produced a very heavily peated malt in these years which was later released as a 6yo. The whisky is boisterous and full of medicine and coastal notes, very Campbeltown in style but still quite young and needs further age. Though early bottlings were promising and it should develop into a fine malt, it may even grow big enough boots to be a quiet rival to Longrow one day. Well just have to wait and see.
From 2000 onwards the distillery was operated well under capacity by the team from Loch Lomond Distillery. How this distillate will differ from the old pre 84 stock remains to be seen. Bottlings from the early nineties distillations have been a little less consistent in quality than the aged expressions from the 70s. However the basic profile seems very similar with lots of that gingery coastal zing in evidence. The current official 14yo is a fine example with plenty of distillery character in evidence while there are other good bottlings by Cadenheads, Duncan Taylor and Douglas Laing.
It remains to be seen how Glen Scotias fortunes will develop. The low production levels of recent years suggest that the distillery is in need of a hefty cash injection. Having said that smaller production levels may lead to a better, more carefully produced spirit. Only time will tell.