Campbeltown is probably the least-known region for categorizing Scotch whisky. This small town on the Kintyre peninsula was once a booming metropolis for impressive whisky, yet today only three distilleries remain. Among those is the Glen Scotia distillery where the fine tradition of Campbeltown single malts is alive and well.
In 2016, the Loch Lomond Group began importing Glen Scotia Scotch Whisky to the U.S. It is the first time that Americans could find this great Campbeltown whisky without leaving the country and there are some real treasures to be found inside these bottles.
The Glen Scotia Story
You've likely heard of Speyside and Islay malts, maybe the whiskies of the Scottish Highlands are your favorite or you prefer the light-bodied Lowland scotches. Campbeltown is likely a different story. The area is not as well known in the modern whisky world for the simple fact that there is no longer much whisky produced there.
Springbank may be the scotch you know from Campbeltown as it is the label with the most attention worldwide. If you've enjoyed a bottle of that, then you will be delighted with the whisky of its Campbeltown counterpart, Glen Scotia. It is a distillery who's history mirrors that of the wider scotch industry.
The Glen Scotia distillery began simply as Scotia when it opened in 1832. By 1851, the remote Campbeltown was home to 28 distilleries that took advantage of the local supplies of peat, grain, and fresh water. It was the ideal location for Scotch whisky production and even held the title of 'Whisky Capital of the World' for some time.
Worldwide economics, U.S. Prohibition, and the turmoil of the wars took their toll on Scotland's whisky boom and in the early 20th-century, many distilleries had shuttered their doors. Scotia was not immune and it was shut down from 1928-1933. Then owner, Duncan MacCallum committed suicide in the Campbeltown Loch and it's said that his ghost continues to roam the distillery.
In 1939, the 'Glen' was added to the name and production had resumed.
From 1954 through 1996, Glen Scotia was owned by many companies. The list includes the Canadian liquor giant Hiram Walker, A. Gillies & Co, Amalgamated Distilled Products Ltd (ADP), and Barton Brands.
The 70s and 80s saw a lot of renovation and reconstruction at the distillery though it did go silent once again between 1984 and 1989. In 1999, the Loch Lomond Group bought the distillery, bringing it under its growing scotch umbrella and in 2016 its three signature bottlings made their U.S. debut.
The Whiskies of Glen Scotia
The single malt whiskies of Campbeltown have always had a distinctive style. The profile includes a dry smokiness with a nice bit of saltiness. It's a sort of cross between the Lowland and Highland single malts with the ocean spray salinity found in 'The Islands.' It is as if many of the fine aspects of Scotch whisky come together in this small coastal town.
Glen Scotia follows this profile and the label clearly states that it is a 'Classic Campbeltown Malt.' The whisky is small-batch as the distillery itself is quite small and has been known for only limited production over the years. There is definitely the taste of craftsmanship in these whiskies.
Though Glen Scotia has offered a number of bottlings at different ages over the years, only three remain the focus today. They do put time and effort into the malted barley (only from the east of Scotland) and other elements of the process, however, the barrels are where the whiskies really find their footings.
- Glen Scotia Double Cask - As the name suggests, this whiskey matures first in former bourbon barrels, then in used Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. The result is a 'rich & spicy' scotch with wonderful fruits and salts, and a fantastic vanilla oak ending. It should be considered a signature taste of Glen Scotia. $63, 46% ABV.
- Glen Scotia 15 Year Old - Rested in American oak barrels, this well-aged bottle of Glen Scotia is elegant with notes of vanilla, fruits, and sea spray. $80, 46% ABV.
- Glen Scotia Victoriana - This whisky is chosen by the Master Blender from a fine selection of the distillery's casks. It is everything that is great about a Glen Scotia whisky, but more refined, decidedly smoother, and fantastically pleasant to drink. It is non-chill filtered and is said to be a nod to the whiskies of the Victorian Era (thus the name). $110, 51.5% ABV.
Enjoying Glen Scotia Scotch
The U.S. release of Glen Scotia is one of the most exciting in recent scotch offerings. These are simply fantastic whiskies that any whisky drinker will love to get a taste of. Victoriana is without a doubt a personal favorite, though I've only had the pleasure to taste it and the Double Cask. My impression is that the 15 Year Old will be equally impressive.
The price and new availability of the Glen Scotia whiskies does make me recommend that they are enjoyed neat. Yet, I also find that they're surprisingly affordable for the refined taste they provide.
Any of these bottles would make a nice gift and can easily become a signature scotch of your whisky collection. They're particularly useful as a fine representation of Campbeltown and I'd love to get them side-by-side with a comparable Springbank bottle.
As fine as they are to sip, I must also recommend that Glen Scotia Double Cask find its way into a scotch cocktail or two. If you're used to the younger single malts of The Glenlivet or The Macallan in your Rob Roy or Rusty Nail, you will want to treat this bottle the same. It's priced right to where you won't feel like you're wasting whisky and the cocktails offer that refined, clean taste that allows a great scotch like this shine through.
About Glen Scotia Scotch Whisky
- Single malt Scotch whisky distilled from malted barley.
- Produced by Glen Scotia Distillery in Campbeltown, Scotland.
- Owned by Loch Lomond Group.
- 46-51.5% ABV (92-103 proof)
- Retails for around $68-110/750ml bottle.
- Visit the Glen Scotia website
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.