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Whisky Reviews: Bladnoch Distillery Vinaya, 11-Year-Old, and 14-Year-Old

$54.99

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Whisky Reviews: Bladnoch Distillery Vinaya, 11-Year-Old, and 14-Year-Old

Tasting Notes:

About:
100% malted barley, no age statement, aged in ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $54.99 for a 750 ml bottle. 100% malted barley, aged 11 years in ex-bourbon casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $64.99 for a 750 ml bottle. 100% malted barley, aged 14 years in ex-Oloroso Sherry casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $109.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
Appearance:
Straw-colored, tending to water-spot the side of the glass rather than leave defined legs. Light amber, tending toward orange; runny legs on the side of the glass. Darker than the Vinaya or 11-year, more russet-colored. Solid legs on the side of the glass.
Nose:
The sweetness of this whisky will come as a shock to those who claim Scotch is always dark and moody. (You know who you are!) In this case, think perfume, flowers, and apple cider. Crisp green apple, chilled (Pinot Gris) white wine, honeysuckle. It’s sweet, light, and refreshing on the nose. Brings to mind a fruity, jammy red wine. I couldn’t help but think of yellow raisins – the ones that are sweeter and juicier than normal raisins – and zesty lemon bars.
Palate:
It’s more traditional on the tongue than it was in the nose. The single-malt flavor is unmistakable, though even here it walks on the light side. There’s a surprising chocolate finish that turns out to be nice. Before that, though, you taste pears and pepper-spice, along with a light effervescence that hints at sparking wine. Score: 3.5 / 5 Tasting Notes: Bladnoch 11-year-Old Vital stats: 100% malted barley, aged 11 years in ex-bourbon casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $64.99 for a 750 ml bottle. Appearance: Light amber, tending toward orange; runny legs on the side of the glass. Nose: Crisp green apple, chilled (Pinot Gris) white wine, honeysuckle. It’s sweet, light, and refreshing on the nose. Palate: Juicy pear, potpourri, honey, just the slightest hint of smoke. As with the Vinaya, there’s no question this is a single malt. The barley flavor is there, but it’s lighter and more invigorating than I’m accustomed to with Scotches. Score: 3.5 / 5 Tasting Notes: Bladnoch 14-year Vital stats: 100% malted barley, aged 14 years in ex-Oloroso Sherry casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $109.99 for a 750 ml bottle. Appearance: Darker than the Vinaya or 11-year, more russet-colored. Solid legs on the side of the glass. Nose: Brings to mind a fruity, jammy red wine. I couldn’t help but think of yellow raisins – the ones that are sweeter and juicier than normal raisins – and zesty lemon bars. Palate: This whisky is richer and moodier than its two siblings. Think prunes, dark chocolate, and golden, cinnamon-covered French toast. The sherry cask flavors really settle on the finish, which lingers long after your glass is empty. Score: 4 / 5 The Takeaway: I’ve had very little Lowland Scotch in my day. Most Scotch I buy or review is from farther north, or one of the islands. But I have to say that Bladnoch impressed me. I enjoyed its tendency toward being lighter, fruitier, almost refreshing. It’s not a bad price point either, for the most part. Call me a convert.
Finish:
Comments:

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as reviews sample by tBladnoch Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Bladnoch Distillery is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It’s one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, dating to 1817, and it remains today the southernmost whisky producer in the country. It’s also one of only a handful of Lowland distilleries left in operation, the victim of a tortured (if interesting) history that goes all the way back to the Napoleonic Wars.

The gentle, rolling hills of Scotland’s south are home to whiskies with a lightness, both in color and body, that differentiates them from their counterparts in the Highlands. The single element that defines Scotch for many drinkers – peat – is almost entirely absent in the Lowlands, too. The result, at least traditionally, was whiskies that were often mildly aromatic and flowery.

Bladnoch, as this website wrote back in 2016, is known for whiskies “characterized by a light, sweet, grassy, and floral style. Some of the older bottlings are also notable for their distinctive citrus/lemon note.” (It’s worth noting that master distiller Nick Savage migrated to Bladnoch from The Macallan only in 2019. Where he takes the brand in the years ahead remains to be seen.)

The distillery these days releases a combination of age-statement single malts up to 29 years old, along with a series of non-age-statement whiskies. It recent announced the release of three new core single malts for the U.S. market: Vinaya; 11-year-old; and 14-year-old. Bladnoch sent a small sample of each to The Whiskey Wash.

Bladnoch review
Bladnoch Vinaya (image via Bladnoch)

Tasting Notes: Bladnoch Vinaya

Vital stats: 100% malted barley, no age statement, aged in ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $54.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Straw-colored, tending to water-spot the side of the glass rather than leave defined legs.

Nose: The sweetness of this whisky will come as a shock to those who claim Scotch is always dark and moody. (You know who you are!) In this case, think perfume, flowers, and apple cider.

Palate: It’s more traditional on the tongue than it was in the nose. The single-malt flavor is unmistakable, though even here it walks on the light side. There’s a surprising chocolate finish that turns out to be nice. Before that, though, you taste pears and pepper-spice, along with a light effervescence that hints at sparking wine.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Tasting Notes: Bladnoch 11-year-Old

Vital stats: 100% malted barley, aged 11 years in ex-bourbon casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $64.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Light amber, tending toward orange; runny legs on the side of the glass.

Nose: Crisp green apple, chilled (Pinot Gris) white wine, honeysuckle. It’s sweet, light, and refreshing on the nose.

Palate: Juicy pear, potpourri, honey, just the slightest hint of smoke. As with the Vinaya, there’s no question this is a single malt. The barley flavor is there, but it’s lighter and more invigorating than I’m accustomed to with Scotches.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Tasting Notes: Bladnoch 14-year

Vital stats: 100% malted barley, aged 14 years in ex-Oloroso Sherry casks; 93.4 proof/46.7% alcohol by volume; $109.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Darker than the Vinaya or 11-year, more russet-colored. Solid legs on the side of the glass.

Nose: Brings to mind a fruity, jammy red wine. I couldn’t help but think of yellow raisins – the ones that are sweeter and juicier than normal raisins – and zesty lemon bars.

Palate: This whisky is richer and moodier than its two siblings. Think prunes, dark chocolate, and golden, cinnamon-covered French toast. The sherry cask flavors really settle on the finish, which lingers long after your glass is empty.

Score: 4 / 5

The Takeaway: I’ve had very little Lowland Scotch in my day. Most Scotch I buy or review is from farther north, or one of the islands. But I have to say that Bladnoch impressed me. I enjoyed its tendency toward being lighter, fruitier, almost refreshing. It’s not a bad price point either, for the most part. Call me a convert.

5 Sherried Whisky Alternatives

Here are my recommendations for those of you who want something sweet and luscious, but a little different in your glass this year. 

Scott Bernard Nelson

Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. Scott works in higher education these days, but he previously spent 22 years as a journalist, covering 9/11 in Manhattan, crossing into Iraq with U.S. Marines and contributing to The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, which spawned the movie "Spotlight." He has been a Whiskey Wash reviewer since 2019.

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