Back to the Scottish Lowlands.
Lately, I had the opportunity to tell you about a newcomer in the region, Lochlea (see here the article) but, I propose you a leap in time by going to discover one of the oldest : BLADNOCH (1817 anyway) to taste its ALINTA.
My peat detector told me that there was smoked barley with fossil soil in the area, enough to wake up my good old Brad Peat and launch him on the roads of the West Galloway peninsula in the south of Scotland. I head for the village of Wigtown, a town of barely 1000 souls located between the bay of the same name and straddling the Bladnoch river!
After crossing the green meadows of the south of Scotland, and following the river Bladnoch, I arrive by a magnificent stone bridge in front of the old distillery with several low grey stone buildings.
I was not mistaken because, not only is it written quite large on the wall and in the centre of the buildings is a pagoda roof!
However, one element arouses my interest. On one of the facades are hung 3 flags! Ok I see the cross of Saint Andrew (it's normal I'm in Scotland), the Union Jack (also normal because to the great dismay of some Scots I'm still in Great Britain). On the other hand, the third flag is more surprising in the northern hemisphere : the Australian Union Flag ?!
Enough to ask a few questions before visiting the distillery and tasting the distillate in the square bottles.
Luckily, as soon as I entered the premises, I met Casey Mackenzie, straight from Australia. Curious, I ask her why this blue multi-starred flag is there.
She first explains that this 200 year old lady, like many of her friends from that time, did not have a very quiet life! She explains me that the distillery has known many owners since John and Thomas McClelland (its founders) and especially had periods when the distillate was not flowing anymore. Nevertheless, she tells me that the distillery has remained independent.
Without going so far as to list the owners who have succeeded each other over the last 200 years, she tells me why the Australian flag is there. Since 2015, the one nicknamed the "Queen of the Lowlands" belongs to David Prior... an Australian who, in addition to being the king of organic yoghurt, is a Scotch whisky enthusiast and has decided to invest in it! She explains me that he did not only invest financially in the distillery, but that he brought his touch and especially wanted to give it back its former splendour.
This was enough to ask a few questions before visiting the distillery and tasting the distillate in the square bottles.
Luckily, as soon as I entered the distillery, I met Casey Mackenzie, who had just come from Australia, and I asked her the reason for the presence of this blue multi-starred banner.
She explains me that this old lady of more than 200 years old, has not had the most peaceful life, like many of her friends of that time! She explains me that the distillery has known many owners since John and Thomas McClelland (its founders) and especially had periods when the distillate was not flowing anymore. Nevertheless, she tells me that the distillery has remained independent.
Without going so far as to list the owners who have succeeded each other over the last 200 years, she tells me why the Australian flag is there. Since 2015, the one nicknamed the "Queen of the Lowlands" belongs to David Prior... an Australian who, in addition to being the king of organic yoghurt, is passionate about Scotch whisky and has decided to invest in it! She explains me that he didn't only invest financially in the distillery, but that he brought his touch and especially wanted to give it back its former splendour.
To do so, she explains to me, that staying on the distillery team, from 2015 (until 2019), he first asked Ian Macmillan (previously at Burns Stewart dist. -you know Ledaig and bunnah..... among others) to wake up the old lady by rejuvenating her facilities (just to celebrate her 200 years of existence with dignity).
In 2019, he has called on the experience of Dr Nick Savage (also almost as much a Scot as an Aussie), who has been hired from The Macallan to take on the post of master distiller and then to revitalise the visitor centre.
Just take a tour of the facilities to see the large wooden mash tun, the 6 washbacks and above all the gleaming distillation room with 4 stills so high up that they look like they are touching the clouds (well, especially since you can't see their swan neck hidden in the ceiling of the room) and visit the many wineries that have started to fill up again.
The upgrading of the distillery has been accompanied by a rejuvenation of the bottle design (with the introduction of recognisable square bottles) and the existing range (10 year old, 11 year old, 17 year old and 19 year old).
It was also accompanied by the creation of new references such as the ADELA 15 year old and SAMSARA in 2017, the TALIA 25, 26 and 27 year old in 2020 and, in 2021, the VINAYA and the Single Cask range.
This was topped off by the exceptional release of 200 bottles of a 29 year old distillate finished in Moscatel casks.
More recently, this reawakening has included the creation of the house's first peaty reference, the ALINTA.
Here, the link with the southern lands is made through the name of the distillate. Indeed, there is no need to look for a Gaelic meaning to the word ALINTA, as it comes from an Australian aboriginal word meaning "fire" as a reflection of the smoky notes it contains. Ah Australia, I had once had the opportunity to experience quite an adventure of tasting there!
Dr Nick Savage has been here to choose a peaty distillate and put it in Pedro Ximenez and bourbon casks.
Let's see what it's like!
The liquid that flows into my glass is a golden colour with a few coppery reflections that show that the whisky is still young (3/4 years) and has not lived long in its PX cask.
On the nose, there's no mistaking it, without completely sinking into the glass, the peat lover that I am is already delighted. The smell of smoke evaporates from the glass. With a bit of imagination you could almost see them. However, they are accompanied by a very pleasant biscuity and vanilla sweetness.
So this is definitely the Lowland peat's signature: smoke and sweet? This reminds me of another tasting I shared with you from a Lowland distillery (Aisla Bay here). Nevertheless, if we want to make a comparison, I would say that the one I have here in the glass is more "subtle".
When you dip your nose a little deeper into the glass for the first time, the peat intensifies. It cools down to remind us of a fire in the morning and becomes impregnated with spices that are quite present, with a note of mandarin in the background that brings a touch of sugar.
On the second pass, the spicy heat and peat are accompanied by a note of dry grass that has almost reached its hay-like state.
The peat remains present all the time and, on the last pass, it takes its place with a camphorated hint and a rise of spices at the top of the nose and a return of sweet fruits at the bottom!
In the palm of the hand, there are smoky aromas and a sweet mix of straw and caramel.
When the liquid is about to enter the mouth, it is preceded by the sensation of a very pleasant smoke halo
On the palate, it is thick on entry and immediately brings a mix of citrus and spice notes. Although some spikes stick, it then softens and becomes honeyed with a background of almond (in taste and texture) and sultana.
It then cools down to campfire and more woody notes. The velvety sensation remains even when swallowed.
Once swallowed, while this sensation is still present, it releases spices in the mouth and smoke that will, over a long period of time, go from the peat fire in the evening to the one in the morning!
The empty glass remains on fresh lemony aromas with a distant hint of peat.
I think that for a first "peaty throw" we are on a beautiful success. I'm thinking when can we expect another peaty from Wigtown. In any case, it makes you want to taste the others, besides, I'm going to do it with Casey...I'll tell you about it!
If you want to do the same, either go to the West Galloway, or on the DUGASCLUBEXPERT.COM website in France, they have them !