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Monday, November 28, 2022

When We Was Fab

There are 2 books I reference regularly when working on ideas for undiluted.  The first is The Social History of Bourbon by Gerald Carson.  He frames his red likker vignettes so eloquently.  On the scotch end, my go-to is The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard.  For 2 years, Barnard visited every distillery in the UK, and documented his experiences.  Some of you may know his work from the Lagavulin 8 bottle.  Lagavulin uses bold red letters in all caps to emphasize the part where he describes the 8 year old as, “Exceptionally fine.”

When Alfred Barnard visited Campbeltown for his book, over 20 distilleries were in operation, practically one on every street corner.  The town, or “Whisky City” as he called it, was thriving.  Barnard recalls walking to Glen Scotia (he refers to it as Scotia), and encountering, “Hardy fish women, with sunburnt faces, selling fresh herring which glistened like silver in the sunshine.”  Jobs were plentiful.  Things were going well.

As the Victorian era came to a close, scotch was generally sold in blended form.  The characterful whiskies of Campbeltown were thought to be too unusual for the masses, and quickly fell out of favour.  The final blow came when the US banned alcohol.  By 1935, only Springbank and Glen Scotia remained.  69 years would pass before spirit started flowing again from a new Campbeltown distillery.  In 2004, Springbank-owned Glengyle launched Kilkerran.  They couldn’t call it Glengyle because Loch Lomond owned the naming rights.

Victoriana is an attempt by Glen Scotia to replicate the look and taste of Campbeltown whiskies during those glory days of the Victorian era, right down to the use of a light green bottle.  Crème brûlée.  For those of you who prefer easy access whiskies, you might not like this one.  It pushes boundaries, and challenges your definition of how a whisky should taste.  Fruit orchard inside an industrial warehouse.  See what I mean?  There’s some char, but it’s only really noticeable on the finish.  Candied mint.  Coating mouthfeel.  Wonderfully balanced.  This is, to borrow a line from Mr. Barnard, exceptionally fine.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...