Wolfburn Aurora

Friday, December 16, 2016


Welcome to my second review from Wolfburn distillery. Casting back to my review of their inaugural malt I was disappointed with the decision to partially mature the spirit in ex-Islay quarter casks. This removed the essence of the Wolfburn distillery character and instead gave us another peated expression for a booming sector of the whisky market.
 
I had no qualms with the spirit itself which seemed well made and arguably could stand on its own without assistance from an additional cask finish. At least it was perfectly affordable and was snapped up by enthusiasts seeking to experience what this new distillery was all about. Since publishing the piece in July I have received comments agreeing with my own stance and finding the distillery character. We’re still waiting and sadly the recent 2016 Dornoch Festival was just a short-run of their existing bottling with a new label. The opportunity for a single cask bottled at full strength was potentially there but sadly not pursued.
 
Now we’re onto the Aurora release which is another reasonably affordable whisky that’ll set you back around £50. Technically like the existing Wolfburn releases it is a No Age Statement bottling, but given the youthful age of the distillery we know with a combination of the whisky rules in Scotland that this is just over 3 years old. That’s as young as it gets in whisky terms and it’s a shame that a distillery doesn’t have the confidence to put that on the label.
 
Yes, you may highlight the point that around £50 for a 3 year old whisky is taking the preverbal. Normally I’d agree, but as a fledgling distillery there is a slight premium warranted for those wishing to try a Wolfburn for the first time. In the coming years we’ll see several youthful whiskies from new distilleries that I confidently predict will be in excess of this price point. Already I can spotlight the Ardnamurchan Spirit 2016 AD, too young to be called whisky, but it will retail for £47.50. These are the times we live in and as the consumer if you’re not happy with the price being requested, then there are plenty of other whiskies on the shelf.
 
Back to the Wolfburn Aurora, which sadly features second-fill quarter casks from Islay in its make-up. These account for 40% of the mix with an additional 40% coming from ex-bourbon first-fill barrels and the remaining 20% coming via first-fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads.  Yet again I question the need for the Islay influence although my belief is this is just to get a foothold in the peated market. Distributors are eager for any peated whiskies, which are in high demand and can be sold at a premium over non-peated expressions. Those seeking a peat experience will know in whisky terms the younger the better, as via maturation the peat influence lessens. On paper it’s a perfect storm for Wolfburn to navigate with a slight peat influence in the makeup of its whisky.
 
I could discuss the distillery itself but as we’ll be seeing much more of Wolfburn in the near future, we’ll keep that aspect on ice until the next review. Time then for the Aurora that was purchased as a sample from a bottle share group recently:
 
Colour: dried yeast
Nose: a nutty aspect with almonds, Rich Tea biscuits almost a granola. There's a creamy note present and plenty of ripe pears, but beyond that you're really having to dig here. Right down there's a red berry influence almost rose-like cutting through the isolation with a touch of all-spice.   
Taste: that's more than I was expecting in all honesty. There's a nice symmetry at work here with the trio of casks working in tandem to deliver more. More of that cream but now joined by honey and peaches, apricots, barley sweets and pear drops. A floral aspect with vanilla and more assorted nuts.
 
Overall: this is an improvement over the aforementioned Wolfburn inaugural bottling. Free of the limitations of the peat dominance there's a roundness, confidence and a greater promise here. I'd still like to have a 100% ex-bourbon Wolfburn at a higher strength, but this will more than do for now.

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