The big wait is over! A month after they released their first single cask whisky exclusively for the members of their Founders’ Club, the Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife has now put out its debut core expression, monickered Dream To Dram. On Thursday, I was lucky to try this new Lowlander at a launch event hosted by Kingsbarns’ German distributor Alba Import in the course of Northern Germany’s biggest whisky fair Hanse Spirit. Together with Alba Import’s co-owner Didi, me and the other guests sipped three drams in a casual, fun atmosphere. We tried the unmatured New Make, a two years old Spirit Drink and the 3.5 years old Dream To Dram (which comes without an age statement because the number “3” alone does not look particularly sexy on the label). Since the two “whiskies to be” were a lot more powerful than their grown-up brother, I drank the Dream To Dram first and the New Make respectively the Spirit Drink last. In this article, however, I will switch the order around to lead you towards the big finale step by step.
The New Make was bottled to tell the whisky world “Hey, we’re alive now! We’ve started distilling”! It shows Kingsbarns’ characteristic style in its purest form. It is very fruity, malty and sweet with gooseberries and lemons in the nose as well as pears and cereals on the tongue. Despite its raw power, it is surprisingly smooth and palatable. That is because Kingsbarns puts strong emphasis on the creation of a clean, delicate spirit. Distillery Manager Peter Holroyd and his team apply a longer fermentation than usual, which results in an almost IPA-like barley beer. At the end of the gentle distillation, during which the liquid gets a lot of copper contact, only a short middle cut is extracted. This procedure brings forth an extraordinarily neat and refined distillate.
Next up, we learned what happens when you put the New Make of the distillery – which is owned by independent bottlers and wine merchants Wemyss by the way – into a first-class bourbon barrel from Heaven Hill Distillery. The contact with the wood added a lot of creamy, sugary notes to the two-year-old Spirit Drink. I found especially the bouquet to be absolutely marvelous, but also the palate and the aftertaste were lovely. While degusting the Spirit Drink, I made out sugar canes, chocolate milk, millionaire’s shortbread, candied oranges and unripe pears as well as a certain grassy note that I often discover in malts from the Lowlands. Even though this sweet n’ savory high-percenter has only travelled two thirds of the whisky way, it was an absolute treat to my nostrils and tastebuds alike!
As you just learned, both the New Make and the Spirit Drink left quite an impression on me. But the highlight of the tasting was the Dream To Dram. Aged for three and a half years in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and specifically prepared “STR” red wine casks (“shaved, toasted, roasted”), the first regular whisky bottling of Kingsbarns Distillery turned out to be light, elegant, palatable and also quite complex. When I nosed it, I sensed white peaches, vanilla pods and grapes as well as fresh wood, soaked moss and quite a lot of citrus. In the mouth, the citrus stepped back to make room for a wealth of other flavors. Now I had pineapple sorbet, banana milk, butter biscuits and slightly burnt vanilla sauce. And when I swallowed it down, I was left with cocoa powder, whipped cream, caramelized sugar and shortcrust pastry as well distant notes of exotic fruits. According to Didi, Kingsbarns’ director William Wemyss said at the official Dream To Dram launch event in Scotland that him and his partners-in-crime have no intention to reinvent the wheel. All they want to do is make a good dram. After three glasses of it, I can honestly and heartily say: Mission accomplished!
Kingsbarns New Make (Malt Spirit / Lowlands / NAS / 63.5% / ~15 EUR)
Kingsbarns Spirit Drink (Malt Spirit / Lowlands / 2yo / 61.8% / ~23 EUR)
Kingsbarns Dream To Dram (Single Malt / Lowlands / NAS / 46% / ~50 EUR)
*** I got kindly invited to the event by Alba Import. ***