Bladnoch Distillery revived

Scotland’s most southerly – and oldest – distillery has a chequered past, but a bright future (see also the timeline at the end of this article). Purchased by Australian entrepreneur David Prior in 2015, together with 2,500 filled casks, this Lowlands distillery restarted distillation in 2017 and is currently releasing limited edition whiskies from the old casks filled before Bladnoch fell silent.

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David Prior – Owner, Surfer and Whisky lover

Prior, who made a fortune with his organic dairy brand five:am in Australia, saw scope to combine hard-headed business with the romance of a product close to his heart since Prior grew up in a Scotch-drinking household (Prior and his Dad had a weekly sit-down with a wee dram to recap the week). When Prior and his wife first visited the mothballed distillery, situated along the Bladnoch River (also the distillery’s water source), he could see that there was something there but his wife walked through and she thought that Prior absolutely had gone crazy. She thought there were more issues than opportunities. He said the Bladnoch site was “steeped in history” and something he had fallen in love with.

With reinstating the distillery, so far 9 jobs have been created on site and more will follow with the development of a visitor centre and the possible need for extra shifts to meet a production target of 1.5 million liters per annum. Prior, seen as an unlikely savior for a facility economically important to rural Galloway, stated that the vision for Bladnoch is to reinvigorate the distillery for the local community; to create a lot of employment for this region and to be the cornerstone of this community. And it is not without reason, that the Bladnoch’s slogan is “Better Shared”.

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Ian MacMillan – Master Distiller & Blender

Since David Prior may be largely an absentee owner, what was required was expertise on the ground an he found it in Master Distiller and Blender Ian MacMillan, who supervised the rebuild of the Bladnoch Distillery.

In 1973, Ian began his apprenticeship at Glengoyne Distillery which was the start of a long and successful career. He also worked at Glasgow’s Port Dundas, assisted in the commissioning of the gin stills at Wandsworth and worked a few years for Tobermory and Bunnahabhein. Now more than 45 years later, Ian joined Bladnoch with a vision to produce the next generation of Scotch whiskies and to regain the distillery’s rightful title as the “Queen of the Lowlands”.

MacMillan, a traditionalist by heart and no fan of the automated distilling process, wanted to go back to making what is described as a real traditional Lowland-style single malt Scotch. In order to create this style, MacMillan redesigned the shape of the stills to make the type of spirit he wanted. He knew the original Bladnoch spirit, since there were lots of original samples left, and it was very Lowland, but it lacked a couple of things; he wants to retain the grassy, linseed oil style, but also wanted to introduces some honey into it, as it was too dry.

Bladnoch will recreate a heavily peated whisky as well in the future, a style which was being produced from 1817 up to the 1960’s, when the former owners shut the kiln down.

Bladnoch’s recent releases

The first distillation (2017) is under way but cannot be called whisk for at least 3 years. It will be malty, and has grassy notes – it is very sweet, it has got little touches of honey and sweetness right through it – according to Ian MacMillan. The Bladnoch products will be typical of a Lowland whisky with a little bit more character. In late 2016, the distillery released three expressions, created from aged stock and selected by Master Distiller MacMillan: the no-age-statement Samsara, the 15 year old Adeala and the 27 year old Talia.

Bladnoch Samsara

The name “Samsara” means “rebirth” and symbolises the first release and reawakening of Bladnoch Distillery. At 46.7% ABV and non-chill filtered, this Single Malt is finished in Californian red wine and ex-Bourbon casks and is therefore luscious, full bodied and fragrant with a rich, lingering core. The Samsara has aged for a minimum of 8 year and is blended with rare, older Bladnoch whiskies.

Bladnoch Samsara

Bladnoch Adela

The name “Adela”, meaning ‘noble’, signifies the richness and depth of flavour for Bladnoch’s  15 year old malt matured in oloroso casks. Also at 46.7% ABV and non-chill filtered, the Adela Single Malt is a moreish, full-bodied expression, matured in Oloroso cask for a warm, sweet sherry flavour.

Bladnoch Adela

Bladnoch Talia

The name “Talia” is given to Bladnoch’s 27 year old  malt, embodying Bladnoch’s very own ‘dew drops from heaven’. This limited release, spicy yet silky expression, is a tribute to the rare, Lowlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Honouring Bladnoch’s traditional style, this malt is brought together using a blend of three different woods – ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry and ex-Whisky – and finally finished in Bourbon casks. Crafted without chill filtration to ensure all the flavours, aromas, and texture developed in the maturation process remain, and using only the purest ingredients – water from the River Bladnoch and locally sourced barley.

This release is bottled at natural cask strength (43% ABV) and colour, and coarsely filtered.

Bladnoch Talia

Bladnoch Bicentennial Release

Released in October 2017, the Bladnoch Bicentennial Release has been matured for 29 years in Oloroso Sherry casks and finished in Moscatel casks for the last 18 months. Only 200 bottles were made to celebrate 200 years of Bladnoch , making this an extremely rare release.

Bladnoch Bicentennial Release

 

Bladnoch 10 Year Old

Matured for 10 years in Bourbon casks, this Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a limited release, showing characteristics of true Lowland style. Crafted using only pristine water from the River Bladnoch and locally grown barley, Bladnoch 10 year old is non-chill filtered, naturally coloured and bottled, at 46.7% ABV, in the purest form.

Bladnoch 10 Year Old

Pure Scot Whisky

The perfect balance of provenance and progression. Contemporary and fresh, combining the unique Bladnoch Single Malt (minimum 9 years old), aged Speyside, Highland and Islay malts, and with specially selected grain whiskies.

The expertise and passion of Master Distiller Ian MacMillan is reflected in every drop delivering a crisp, smooth, authentic taste.

Pure Scot Virgin Oak 43 Whisky

This small batch blended Scotch Whisky is further matured in Virgin American Oak Casks. Fresh and zesty with spicy gingerbread and orange fruity notes, enjoy the smooth texture with a long-lasting refreshing honey finish.

Bladnoch Timeline

1817

John and Thomas McClelland are granted a license to distil in their farm in Bladnoch.

1905

The distillery is closed and production halts.

1911

Irish group Dunville & Co purchases the distillery.

1937

With production intermittent under Dunville, the company is liquidated and Bladnoch is closed. Glasgow whisky broker Ross & Coulter purchases the distillery and sells off the mature stock and  the equipment to a Swedish distillery.

1956

Now under the ownership of A.B. Grant, Bladnoch reopens.

1964

McGown and Cameron take over the distillery.

1966

Bladnoch’s production is expanded to four stills.

1973

Inver House Distillers acquires Bladnoch.

1983

Bought by Arthur Bell & Sons.

1988

Guinness, which acquired Arthur Bell, opens a visitors’ center at the distillery.

1993

By now under United Distillers, Bladnoch is officially decommissioned.

1994

Raymond Armstrong purchases the distillery and recommences production in 2000.

2014

Armstrong places Bladnoch into administration.

2015

The distillery is purchased by Australian entrepreneur David Prior, and undergoes an extensive £25m refurbishment.

June 2017

Bladnoch distillery officially restarts production with the flow of a grassy, malty Lowland-style spirit.

Official website: www.bladnoch.com
Bladnoch on Instagram: @bladnochwhisky

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