Expert Tasting: Glen Scotia 46 Year Old
The Glen Scotia 46 Year Old is the oldest expression ever released by the distillery and is limited to only 150 bottles. Michael Henry, Loch Lomond's Master Blender, tells me it was distilled on a particularly rainy Saturday in 1974, "in the final year of production before Glen Scotia would close its doors to complete a long and costly program of renovations that would "radically modernise" the distillery for the next chapter of history."
At that time, Glen Scotia was owned by a London-based blending company named Amalgamated Distilled Products PLC, who mothballed it in 1984; ADP was bought by Gibson International two years later, who resumed production in 1989. In 1994, under yet another owner, Glen Scotia was again mothballed, then operated for only a couple of months a year, until it was bought by Loch Lomond Distillers Ltd. in 1999 before passing to the current owners, the Loch Lomond Group, in 2014. They have invested heavily in restoring and upgrading and Glen Scotia won a clutch of prizes in the 2022 World Whisky Awards.
This 46YO expression was first matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogsheads, re-racked into a first fill ex-bourbon barrel in 2011, then finished for three years in a first fill Oloroso hogshead in 2017. Michael Henry writes:
"It is quite an honour to have inherited these old casks and to release this one now as a window through timme." It is bottled at a natural strength, without tinting or chill-filtration.
As readers will know, Campbeltown was once the "Whisky Capital of the World": between 1823 - when the Excise Act made it desirable for illicit distillers to take out licenses - and 1835, 28 distilleries were commissioned. But by 1930 only three distilleries remained - Glen Scotia (then simply named "Scotia"), Springbank, and Riechlachan, and the last closed in 1934.
In his excellent Campbeltown Whisky: An Encyclopedia (2020) Angus Martin writes:
"The most intriguing question in the history of Glen Scotia is how it managed to survive... [The distillery] changed hands many times and was more often out of production. It should have failed several times and is now arguably in its healthiest state since its foundation."
Scotia's most intriguing owner was Duncan MacCallum, who headed a consortium to acquire it in 1891. He was clearly a remarkable man, travelled widely - his obituary mentions "Canada, the U.S., the West Indies, South America, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the east generally." His passion was sailing; he owned a cruising yacht (on which he took Alfred Barnard, the renowned distillery visitor, for an exhilarating sail up Campbeltown Loch).
He was also a hugely successful businessman: according to a visiting journalist, in 1905 he "held the controlling interest in Benromach, Glen Albyn, and Glendronach Distilleries" and went on to incorporate Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd. in 1919 to operate Scotia, Glen Nevis, Glengyle, Kinloch, Dalintober, and Ardlussa Distilleries.
On his last cruise, to Norway and the U.S.S.R. in 1930, a journalist reported that "...he was the life of the ship, and... it was the surprise of all on board to learn that he was 83 years of age. To convince them that he was not a man of sixty or thereabouts, he had, indeed, to exhibit his passport."
It is therefore shocking to report that, on 23rd December that year, he drowned himself in the Crosshill Loch. To this day, it is not known why; he was public-spirited, universally popular, and immensely wealthy.
The original feature is from the Summer 2022 edition of Whiskeria, delivered to the door of W Club subscribers and also free with any Whisky Shop purchase in store or online. Click here to read the full Summer 2022 issue of Whiskeria online for free.