2015 is now fully here. The western world has returned to work, winter is upon us and now upon the arrival of weekend which we all need for recovery, I wanted to get back to the posting routine with something special. A preview of a new distillery: The Wolfburn Distillery.
Last year was packed with news and announcements on new distilleries. Some started distilling at last (Kingsbarns Distillery, The Lakes Distillery and Ardnamurchan Distillery) or just plans were announced like Mark Reynier Waterfront Distillery in Ireland.
But some are ahead of the curve, like Wolfburn Distillery.
Located in Thurso at the top of the highlands region (only Orkney distilleries are farther north). Wolfburn distillery was brought to life because of the rising demand for whisky all over the world and because it’s located mere 300 meters from the old Wolfburn distillery which was active there in the 19th century (1821 to 1877) so drawing upon history and the ability to use the same water source (The Wolf Burn) made sense to the founders.
Shane Fraser, formerly the manager of Glenfarclas, was brought to run the distillery, and after construction that took place in 2011 and 2012, and the equipment was installed in place, they started production in January 2013, so in exactly one year (or so) we’ll see Wolfburn’s inaugural release and it’s a great time to look upon the Wolfburn history and what’s waiting for us.
I contacted Daniel Smith, Wolfburns business development manager, and queried on their whisky releases plans. He was kind enough to reply with a very detailed answer.
Wolfburn’s inaugural release will be in early 2016 and will consist purely of spirit laid down in ex-bourbon quarter casks. This spirit is maturing fantastically well (it has really come a long way in the past 21 months) and is already receiving great reviews from visiting journalists. Following the inaugural release, our “standard” expression will be made of a vatting consisting of (roughly) 40% spirit matured in ex-bourbon quarter casks, 40% spirit matured in ex-bourbon ASBs (American standard barrels), and 20% spirit matured in sherry hogsheads and/or butts.
However, we’ll only be releasing a relatively small proportion of our overall laydown – about 80% will remain behind to mature for many more years.
Daniel was kind enough to send me a few spirits samples to check upon their progress. I was curious to see what’s their distillery profile would be. With a slow distillation process that takes 4 hours and garner high rate of copper contact, the whisky must be gentle and smooth, so let’s see what Wolfburn had planned for us.
Wolfburn newmake (69.7%)
Nose: Fruit sugar or maybe fruity and sweet? Hard to tell. Malty and lots of sweet cookie dough. It’s somewhat oily and showing spearmint-like sharpness and freshness. It got some muscles and heaviness yet still sporting an athletic body.
Palate: Sweet, sugary bites, powerful, malty & creamy, pine and spearmint.
Finish: warm, sweet and mint.
Wolfburn 20 months 2nd fill ex-bourbon (cask #16)
Nose: Smoke! Must come from the charred barrel, right? The smoke dissapear with time and on the stage is that sharpness that was felt in the newmake. Light nose with not much of the new make but also not much of the barrel, kinda like twilight zone 😉 After a minute the maltiness shows up with some vanilla/honey, and then some sweet fruits. Overall it’s fresh and bodily. With water: sweeter and fruitier on front.
Palate: Smoke at first, sweet sugar, fruitiness, more of the profile shown by the new make. With water: sweet-bitterness and also some oak, less sweet
Finish: short-medium with a dash of grapefruits bitterness but mostly lingering light sweetness and very mild oak impact.
Wolfburn 14 months ASB (American Standard Barrel) first fill (63.4%)
Nose: Young, initial sweet forest fruits and spiciness. I could swear it’s some sherry impact here but it’s the first fill that works wonders here and the sweetness is more sherried sweet than sweet fruits. Fresh and light and lovely. With water: Sweetness and spices (cloves/nutmeg), less sharpness and surprisingly opens it up so nicely that it feels way mature.
Palate: Sweet light berries, creamy malt and pastry dough, pepper and initial sprouts of nutmeg and baking spices. With water: ugh, the spirit didn’t like it as it become malty, less sweet, much more like new make, not as sweeter and it feels flatter
Finish: Sweet berries juice, lingering oak & malt. With water: malty, bit of oak, new make and less sweet.
Summary: The spirit is indeed gentle and smooth but I was a bit surprised to notice mint spiciness and the output from the first fill ASB is very promising. Exciting times are coming to the top of the highlands!
(Official spirit samples provided by Wolfburn Distillery)