Collections

A collection of whisky from some of Scotland's newest distilleries

Many of Scotland’s newest distilleries have begun sharing their first releases, but how do they compare?
By Christopher Coates
In our last issue we explored the ‘new wave’ of distillers (see: Whisky Magazine issue 176) and discussed how many of these whisky makers are taking innovative approaches, often embracing heritage grains and the concept of terroir, while others are keeping things strictly traditional. Of course, one can tour a new distillery as many times as one likes, appreciate its bottlings’ trendy branding, like the distillery manager and respect the values upon which the business is founded, but, ultimately, the criteria upon which every single distillery will be judged by history is the quality of its spirit. With many of these new distilleries now in a position to release products with some degree of regularity, any avid collector and taster of ‘new Scotch’ may soon have to decide which distilleries to focus on to avoid blowing their annual whisky budget in the first quarter. To help in that decision, we’ve tasted some of the latest releases in order to compare, contrast and advise what kind of collection each is best suited to.

Ardnamurchan
AD/01.21:01

ABV: 46.8%
Style: Single Malt
Region: Highlands
Price per bottle: £44.95
Bottling: Distillery
Availability: Limited Edition

For the collector who… likes old-school charm

This distillery’s inaugural release sold like proverbial hot cakes and, despite the fact that around 16,000 bottles were released, there are now none to be found at retail. This meant the clamour for act two could be heard, well, all the way over in Ardnamurchan. Once again, we were treated to a spirit created by marrying both peated and unpeated spirit, but this time 65 per cent of it had been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and the remainder in ex-sherry casks. Something that seems to characterise all of the Ardnamurchan releases, not to mention most of the cask samples that have been shared, is a quiet complexity that grows. The samples have all been balanced, with an abundance of floral and citrus notes, candle wax and a hint of minerality on the palate. In general, the peated spirit has added structure rather than outright smoke, putting the profile in the realm of the old school.

Kingsbarns
Balcomie

ABV: 46%
Style: Single Malt
Region: Lowlands
Price per bottle: £49.95
Bottling: Distillery
Availability: Limited Edition

For the collector who… appreciates balance

A delicate but intensely fruity spirit is produced at Kingsbarns, which means even just a little too much wood could be in danger of overshadowing its charms. Thankfully, the team have thus far eschewed the use of overbearing casks and, even when using somewhat punchier wood types, such as STRs, have managed to deliver a light touch when it comes to maturation. This made the question of how the spirit would react to sherry casks an intriguing one: could ‘Kingsbarns’ and ‘sherry bomb’ ever exist in the same sentence? Thankfully, the team have once again showed their penchant for restraint and demonstrated that a gentle hand can be the best guide. Balcomie is the first 100 per cent sherry cask-matured release from this Fife distillery and does a great job of showing what American oak ex-sherry butts can do. It’s sweet, it’s fruity and might just be the best core release from this Lowlander to date.

Lindores
MCDXCIV (1494)

ABV: 46%
Style: Single Malt
Region: Lowlands
Price per bottle: £46
Bottling: Distillery
Availability: Limited Edition

For the collector who… is a sucker for mouthfeel

It’s been a long wait, but after just 527 years there’s once again whisky hailing from Lindores Abbey. Though the founders originally said they planned to produce something in the light and floral traditional Lowland style, the new-make spirit boasts considerably more heft. Long fermentations made for production of an intensely fruity make, which manages to hit everything from fermenting tropical fruit to lemon sherbet and citra hops on the nose alone. The new spirit has a delightful oiliness, with nuts, pie crust and a touch of wax backing up those orchard fruits – and this is before it’s even seen a cask. The MCDXCIV has an almost cream soda-like quality, with limeade and rum-y fermenting tropical fruit character. There’s vanilla on the palate, backed by heather honey, marshmallow, digestive biscuit, milk chocolate and sourdough. John Cor would be proud.

Nc’nean
Organic Single Malt Whisky

ABV: 46%
Style: Single Malt
Region: Highlands
Price per bottle: £47.95
Bottling: Distillery
Availability: Limited Edition

For the collector who… loves the planet, delicate spirit, and a cracking bottle

Once little more than a novelty, organic whisky is on the cusp of developing into a category in its own right and Nc’nean are leading the charge. Set up with the clear aim of producing 100 per cent sustainable and organic spirit, the hype surrounding the distillery’s eco credentials and its beautiful, if left-of-field, bottle has perhaps been in danger of overshadowing the quality of the spirit, which so far has proven to be clean, grassy, delicately floral, and just a touch chalky. Before being distracted by the sheer beauty of its verdantly illustrated bottle, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Nc’nean team have quietly been distilling multiple spirit styles, so they still have a few surprises up their sleeves.

Raasay
Hebridean Single Malt

ABV: 46.4%
Style: Single Malt
Region: Islands
Price per bottle: £48
Bottling: Distillery
Availability: Limited Edition

For the collector who… is a whisky nerd at heart

Raasay founder Alasdair Day once said that his distillery’s whisky would be a perfect example of what happens when a blender is allowed to develop his own single malt from grain to glass – he’s certainly kept his promise. A blend of both peated and unpeated spirit that’s been matured in a combination of ex-rye barrels, new chinkapin oak, and ex-Bordeaux red wine casks, this second release from Raasay is perhaps the most ‘complete’ and mature-tasting whisky of the bunch. Day’s plan to manufacture complexity at a young age through blending has certainly paid off, with everything from sour apple candies to peach syrup, cardamom to kaffir lime, sandalwood and kefir on the nose, backed by chocolate-coated fruits and charred mango on the palate. Buy two, drink both. Then buy another, if you can get it.

Torabhaig
2017 The Legacy Series Inaugural Release

ABV: 46%
Style: Single Malt
Region: Islands
Price per bottle: £49.95
Bottling: Distillery
Availability: Limited Edition

For the collector who… chases peat in all its varied forms

Torabhaig managed to fly under the radar for quite some time and, due to the pandemic, ended up releasing a whisky with more than just the minimum age under its belt. On account of this distillery’s restrained smoky style, those peat heads expecting another Ardbeg or Laphroaig will be disappointed. Anyone who appreciates the more subtle smoky characteristics of Benromach, Bowmore and the neighbouring Talisker, for instance, might find a new friend in this inaugural release. Predictably, this one flew off the shelves faster than you can say ‘Skye’, but the next small-batch expression in line, Allt Gleann, will be landing around the time this issue heads to print and promises more of the distillery’s elegant but rugged house style.