Bottom of the Barrel #4: Strathisla 12 Year Old

Okay, I’ll start with the apologies – time has gotten away from me over the last month or two.
I started a new job in May, but that’s no excuse (within the alcoholic drinks industry no-less; more brewing than distilling for now, but it’s a step in the right direction).
I’ve slapped myself on the wrist and aim to do better in coming months – either that or rethink the monthly nature of these posts and maybe head down the every other month route.

Anyway, on to the task at hand…

Strathisla 12 Year Old is this month’s selection for BotB.

A fantastic, sherried dram that almost evokes more typically Highland qualities than those of Speyside, not unlike Glenfarclas’ output.

Country: Scotland

Region: Speyside

Distillery: Strathisla

Bottler: Strathisla

ABV: 40.0%


Vendor: Morrison’s

Price Paid: £25.99 (On Offer)

RRP: £34.25

Owned by Chivas Brothers, Strathisla is one of the core components of the more well-known blended fare that Chivas offer. Or as Rob B puts it when speaking to brand ambassadors,

“Fantastic whisky, blended to shit!”

It was Rob B in fact who first introduced me to Strathisla, and this expression in particular, last October under the cover of a gazebo in my garden after a Halloween/Bonfire gathering. The party may have been a bit limp (smoke machine and red light bulbs aside) but the drams were memorable.

With its distinctive pagodas, cobbled courtyard and picturesque buildings, Strathisla Distillery is the oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland and is the spiritual home of Chivas Regal.
Built on the banks of the river Isla Strathisla was founded as the Milltown Distillery by George Taylor and Alexander Milne in 1786 on land leased from the Earl of Seafield.
It is the oldest and one of the most picturesque distilleries in the highlands of Scotland.
By 1830, the distillery was owned by William Longmore, later William Longmore Ltd. In 1879, the distillery suffered terribly from a fire, but was rebuilt with a bottling plant. Bought in 1940 by Jay Pomeroy, a fraudulent financier, it was later acquired in 1950 by James Barclay of Chivas Bros. to safeguard this special Speyside malt, primarily for use in Chivas Regal. &

Arriving in a crisp white box housing a short stubby(?) clear glass bottle, a-la Aberlour/Bunnahabhain/Balvenie. The clear glass allows you to see the colour of the whisky, which is a reddish mahogany colour, albeit the product of a bit of the “Ol’ E150”, caramel colouring.
It doesn’t feel too false though, as the flavour is there to back up the colour.

That’s one of those little things that I always look out for; I have no problem with a distillery using colouring, if I feel that the final colour represents the flavour profile of the dram well. Equally I have no problem with light, straw coloured whiskies as long as the flavour is there – we taste with our tongues and not our eyes.

NOSE: 21

Sherried fruit shows prominently with a faint cereal note emerging,


Fruity, with a plumminess showing strongly.
A little drying.
Rounded with some sugary notes coming through.


Long but gentle, with fruitiness lingering.


Very easy-to-drink dram with a rounded and well-balanced flavour profile.
Would enjoy tasting a higher ABV Strathisla to see how much more flavour the increased strength would bring through.
Also, as it is as sherried as it is, I would love to see it’s natural colour, sans-caramel.


Strathisla is a fantastic distillery whose drams are almost universally pleasant, yet are often missed and under-marketed due to the dominance of Chivas Regal.

I personally really enjoy this expression (my bottle is about 3/4 empty, take that as you will) and the sherry influence is plenty strong enough at this age and price point.
It’s a shame that it’s RRP is where it is but c’est la vie. If it were always under £30 then I’d probably put this column to bed now.

Even above £30 it is cracking value for money. Sold at £37 by some retailers, I would probably say that is just over upper-limit of good value – £35 is probably as far as you could take it.
At £35 it’s still worth a punt if you want something that matches it’s flavour profile but for the same price you can definitely find comparable, and maybe even better drams with a similar taste (Glendronach, Glengoyne, Glenfarclas and Tamdhu to name a few).

If I have the chance to purchase another bottle at £25, which is almost a certainty (keep checking Amazon, Waitrose and Morrisons) then I may just grab a couple as I’m pretty sure that when this bottle is dead I’ll be cursing myself for my lack of foresight.

Next Month:  Ardmore Legacy


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