Review: Kingsbarns New Make Spirit
Kingsbarns started distilling earlier this year and thus the clock started ticking on the countdown for their first official whisky. A milestone for any distillery, the release of their small batch handcrafted new make spirit provides some clues as to the intended characteristics of the whisky that awaits.
I've been fortunate to visit the distillery on a couple of occasions as I live in Fife and its a fine drive on the right day along the coastline to the sleepy village of Kingsbarns. Therefore when this new make was announced I was eager to purchase a couple of bottles, noting the alcohol strength of 63.5%, which is what goes exactly into the casks. Highland Park for whatever reason water down their new make to 50% before selling this at the distillery.
It's been a whirlwind 12 months for the Fife distilling community as Eden Mill located on the opposite side of St Andrews released a trio of limited edition new make spirits. These were part of that important experimentation when the distillery team decide on their new make characteristics and get to grips with the newly installed stills. Their Robert Burns Night new make was particularly enjoyable and I'll watch all these Fife distilleries with interest including the old fella of the bunch i.e. Daftmill.
The French use the word 'terroir' to encapsulate the environment in which a wine is produced, its characteristics derived from the climate and ingredients. This is what the Kingsbarns new make symbolises consisting of malted Fife barley and water from an aquifer 100m below the distillery.
Age: this is ground zero in whisky terms i.e. zero
Strength: 63.5% alc
Price: £14.95 (200ml) from the distillery
Colour: gelatin sheet
Nose: a mineral quality to this with limestone chalk and what reminds me of banana chips. A sugary sweetness that takes me back to making tablet over the stove, which I must do again soon. Juicy pears and polo mints combine well for a clean linen fresh presentation.
Taste: at 63.5% its the alcohol that dominates with pears, white grapes and apples fighting to come through. With water the palate opens up and vanilla arrives, the malt is noticeable and there's a real clean freshness with a little lime.
This is a tasty new make and one that suggests Kingsbarns is going for a juicy, light and approachable whisky. We'll hopefully find out sometime in 2018 how the final product turns out.