The Glen Scotia Distillery in Campbeltown has always worked in the shadow of larger, better known distilleries but in recent years has been acquiring a loyal fanbase. The distilleries core range is well worth exploring, and a number of superb independant releases are regularly available from Gordon & MacPhail, Murry McDavid and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Glen Scotia Whisky Distillery
The Glen Scotia distillery is located in the north of Campbeltown, on the Kintyre Peninsula. The distillery name is derived from the Gaelic and means “Valley of the Scots”. Glen Scotia is remarkable if only as one of the last surviving distilleries of the Campbeltown region, once called the ‘Whisky Capital of the World’ and home to over 30 distilleries. Glen Scotia was one of two, alongside Springbank until these were joined by Glengyle. Loch Lomond Distillery took over the Glen Scotia distillery in the 1990s and gave it a new boost after Glen Scotia only produced sporadically in the 80s.
What does Glen Scotia single malt taste like? Today Glen Scotia is best known for a fresh, salty - typically oily maritime whisky. Unpeated, medium peated and heavily peated whiskies are produced in different batches throughout the year. Varied fermentation times further complicate the task of finding a single distillery character, short fermentations produce nutty notes, where as long frementation time with the yeast produces fruity flavours in the new make.
As a result it would be fair to say that Glen Scotia runs the gauntlet between smoky and coastal to mild and fruity character. Among the unpeated, and lightly peated whiskies vanilla and honey are common, but also look for fresh pear, apricot and a dash of nuts.
Glen Scotia is bottled in its natural form, without coloureing or chill filtration.
The current standard whisky from Glen Scotia is the Glen Scotia 15 years, which is characterized by its oily texture, an aroma of fruity peat smoke, malt and maritime notes. Sweetness dominates the palate, but notes of resin, light smoke and nuts can also be found. The finish is medium to long with smoke and spice lingering.
Glen Scotia Victoriana Cask Strength is another standout of the line up and well worth a visit for fans of stronger spirit. Drawn from casks with a particularly heavy char profile the Victoriana Cask Strength is rich with roasted oak and toasty notes. Bottled at cask strength, a robust 54.2% ABV, you’ll find fruit forward on the nose, with tart red berry juiciness on the palate. These giver way to orchard fruits dusted with dark chocolate on the finish. Delicious
As a result of the distillery’s turbulent history, while a few independent bottlings were available there were very few official releases until 2005 when an 12 year old expression was released. This earlier bottling is less widely available now but well worth trying if you get the chance.
In 2012 a completely revised portfolio came on the market, with a 10, a 12, a 16, an 18 and a 21 year old single malt. In 2014, the private equity firm “Exponent” bought “Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouses Ltd.” and with it the Glen Scotia distillery. This saw the core portfolio change again.
Today it includes the:*“Glen Scotia Double Cask” (46% ABV%) - which was initially stored in first fill bourbon casks before being filled into former Pedro Ximénez casks for twelve months* The “Glen Scotia 15 years” (46% ABV %)* The “Glen Scotia 16 years” (46% ABV) * The “Glen Scotia 18 years” (46% by volume)* The “Glen Scotia Victoriana” (51.5% ABV) from the so-called Reserve Cellar of the distillery, in which only the best barrels are stored* The “Glen Scotia 25 Years” (48.8 ABV%)* The extra peaty “Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown” (46% ABV)
How is Glen Scotia whisky produced?Glen Scotia uses one mash tun, six fermentation tanks and 2 stills to produce 800, 000 litres per anum. The water for Glen Scotia Single Malt comes from the Crosshills Loch. Three types of malt (unpeated, medium-peated and heavily-peated) are sourced from Greencore Maltings, located in southwest Scotland. An open-topped, cast iron mash tun produces wort which is then fermented in 6 new stainless steel washbacks each with a volume of 17,000 liters. Fermentation times vary depending on the style of whisky being produced, short (giving nutty flvaours) and long (providing fruity). A single pair of stills are used for distillation the was still has a capacity of 16,000 litres, the spirit still of only 12,000 litres.
The Glen Scotia distillery was built as Scotia distillery in 1832 by the Stewart, Galbraith & Co company who operated it continuously until 1895.
Having only just survived the first word war, and faced with the impending enforcement of Prohibition across the Atlantic times were bleak. In 1919, the distillery was joined by five other local whisky producers under the banner of West Highland Malt Distilleries (WHMD). As an attempt to share costs, and avoid potential closures at the site this was a failure five of the six failed and Scotia survived only because it was bought out by Glen Nevis founder (and one of the directors of WHMD) Duncan MacCallum in 1924.
Four years later, Duncan was ultimately unable to counter the prohibition-induced crisis, so the distillery had to had to cease production, but opened again in 1930. In the same year, however, MacCallum drowned himself in the Campbeltown Loch after losing his life savings in a scam (his ghost is said to haunt the distillery today). Glen Scotia was taken over by the Bloch Brothers [see Glengyle, Scapa] and managed to survive Prohibition, resuming production in 1933, just after Prohibition was repealed. Bloch Brothers added ‘Glen’ to the name.
Bloch Bros remained owners until 1954 until the distillery was sold to the Canadian spirit giant Hiram Walker in 1954. However, they were uninterested in incorporating Glen Scotia into their strategy however and just 12 months later, the Glasgow blender A. Gillies & Co., owners of the Littlemill distillery, bought Glen Scotia. A. Gilier & Co., were swallowed by Amalgamated Distillers Products Ltd in 1970.
The distillery was extensively renovated until 1982, but production was stopped in 1984 and only resumed in 1989. The new owner, now called Gibson International, went bankrupt in 1994 and Glen Scotia became the property of Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse, a subsidiary of Loch Lommond. During this period, the distillery was mothballed and the existing stocks were exploited. It was worked intermittently until 1999. The distillery and the stored barrels were the cornerstone for the resumption of production in 2000 when the Loch Lomond distillery took over distilling operations at Glen Scotia using labour from Springbank.
With Glen Catrine’s subsequent purchase in 2014 by private equity firm Exponent, the distillery along with its sister Loch Lomond were refurbished and their ranges expanded. 2019 saw Chinese investment firm Hillhouse Capital acquiring the group, this may well result in a pivot towards the asian market.
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Active||1832 - Present||Malt||Glen Scotia||Not Available|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
|John Peterson||Loch Lomond Group|
Glen Scotia Timeline:
1832: Stewart, Galbrath & Co founds the Scotia Distillery
1919: The West Highland Malt Distillers take over the distillery
1924: Duncan MacCallum buys Scotia
1928: Scotia closes for two years
1930: After MacCallum's suicide, the Bloch Bros buy Scotia and rename if Glen Scotia
1954: Canadian group Hiram Walker & Sons acquire Glen Scotia
1955: A. Gilles & Co Distillers take over the distillery
1970: A. Gillies & Co becomes part of Amalgamated Distilled Products
1984: Glen Scotia falls silent for five years
1980: The distillery reopens under Gibson International
1994: Glen Catrine acquire Gibson's and Glen Scotia is mothballed
1999: Glen Scotia reopens under Loch Lomond Distillers using labour from Springbank
2000: Loch Lomond staff take over distillation
2014: The company is sold to Exponent
2019: Chinese investment firm Hillhouse Capital acquires the group