Friday, April 2, 2010

Glen Scotia 17 -Year: One of Three

When I was living in Scotland, I naively assumed that I could purchase the majority of my favourite single malts in Canada. If these whiskies were not stocked, I could always order them through the BCLCB, right? Wrong. British Columbia is so conservative and stingy when it comes to liquor that they just do not allow the importing of specific spirits. 

Case study: I visited the smallest single malt distillery in Scotland when I was over there, Edradour, and fell in love with both the distillery and the spirit that they produce. Once I was back in Vancouver, I asked about this whisky at one of the "signature" government liquor stores and the Special Orders Representative explained that they can order items from the UK, but only if the liquor is on the BCLCB list of registered spirits. Sure, there are hundreds of single malts on this list, but guess which brand was absent?

I recently discovered that Glen Scotia 17-Year is available in BC. This surprised me because a) Campbeltown Scotches are rare and b) the Glen Scotia 12-Year and 14-Year are way more common. There are five primary whisky regions in Scotland: Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown. Campbeltown burgh is in southwest Scotland, on the Kintyre peninsula, and it used to be a peaty-scotch-producing powerhouse. A downturn in population and economy during the early 1900s resulted in the closure of dozens of distilleries, and now only three remain. Along with Springbank and Glengyle, Glen Scotia is (in very VERY general terms) a cross betwixt the briny, smoky Islay malts and the grassy, dry Lowland malts. This results in an incredibly distinctive and drinkable Scotch which always finishes strong and full.

Glen Scotia, established in 1832, almost went under as well. They were producing on and off throughout the 1980s and 1990s as ownership changed hands a few times, and they actually closed altogether in 1984 for a stint. Since 1999, however, Glen Scotia has been producing consistently under the ownership of Loch Lomand Distillery (known for blended Scotches...hmmmm). The Glen Scotia 17-Year is initially dry on the tongue, but it quickly converts to a typical Campbeltown with its oily, piney characteristics. This is not an easy dram, but it's rewarding and makes for a great aperitif.

I highly recommend this whisky, if you can find it. The folks at Rare Drams will know where to find it, if you cannot find it at one of the disappointing BCLCB branches.

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