It was 1817 when John and Thomas McClelland took out a licence to make whisky on their farm in the hamlet of Bladnoch near Wigtown in the far south-west of Scotland. It stayed in family ownership until 1905, when it was one of many stills to close during a period of over-supply and low sales. Bladnoch is not far from the sea crossing between Stranraer and Larne and twice in its history its saviours have come from Northern Ireland. The first of these was Belfast distiller Dunville & Co. which owned the Royal Irish distillery. It bought Bladnoch in 1911 and continued production – albeit intermittently – until 1937. At that point, Dunville’s directors were spooked by (Scottish-based) DCL’s declaration that Irish whiskey had no future. After DCL turned down the chance to buy the firm, it went into liquidation, despite being profitable and having stock. Bladnoch was closed once more. Worse was to follow. Its new owner, Ross & Coulter, sold off Bladnoch’s mature stock and sent the distilling equipment to Sweden – and so the story continues, with owners coming and going at rapid rate. Bladnoch reopened in 1956, was expanded to four stills in 1966, became part of Inver House for a decade, and then in 1983 was bought by Arthur Bell & Son. After Bell’s was taken over it was folded into Guinness/UD [now Diageo] and production once again slowed. In 1993, it was officially decommissioned. The year after, however, two brothers from Northern Ireland bought it with the initial idea of turning the extensive site into a holiday village. A change of heart soon after saw them wishing to start making whisky again – contrary to the terms of sale. It took six years to persuade Diageo to allow them to make 100,000 litres a year – below capacity and as it turned out right on the limits of profitability. In July 2015 Australian businessman David Prior, along with ex-Scotch Whisky Association CEO, Gavin Hewitt, announced the purchase of Bladnoch and plans to restore the distillery to its former glory. Production at Bladnoch offically restarted in June 2017, with the flow of a grassy, malty Lowland-style spirit.
Rich and complex with toffee and vanilla sweetness mingling with dried fruits, plums, dark berries, and the merest hint of oaky spice. Smooth but spicy with the oak coming more to the fore with hints of cinnamon. There is plenty of fruit in there too; prunes and cherries, which combine with the spice to give a marmalade sharpness on the palate. The spiciness softens while the fruit lingers on the finish.