Just how I like to seek out new & exciting whiskeys to taste – I’m also keen to try out new whiskey experiences – especially when they are the inaugural outing for the Fife Whisky Festival in the county town of Cupar.
The atmosphere inside the Corn Exchange building was far more welcoming than the rather ‘drookit & dreich’ weather outside as I made my way to the first warming whisky of the show.
Eden Mill distillery is only a short distance away and I have previously enjoyed their sourced blends in the very attractive Art Of The Blend series. The No. 4 bottle is a port cask finish which displayed that lovely dry yet fruity mouth feel I associate with this style of whisky. Very nice, but the sold out No. 3 still remains my favourite. Eden Mill’s own whisky should be ready for release later this year.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company are independent bottlers of fine repute well known for their distinctive cartoony labels – as well as their award winning showman in the shape of Boutique-y Dave.
How could I not resist the ‘My Lovely Horse’ of Irish Single Malt #1?
It’s a 13 year old unnamed source single malt – although you can always guess – and is a very decent representation of the Irish ‘style’ – if it can be pigeon holed in one bottle. Soft, subtle, fruity & sweet. I couldn’t help thinking there’s better than this released now with all the exciting new expressions & distilleries emerging.
Undeterred I ventured onto 2 similarly unnamed Scottish offerings. Blended Malt #2 & Blended Whiskey #3. Both were delights & highlighted the true masterful work of a great blend. If anything – #3 was probably a far more complex & rounded offering but the peat in #2 won it for me. Gorgeous.
The nearby James Eadie stall also did a fine blend with a bit of history – and peat – by the name of Trade Mark X which certainly pleased my palate.
Strathearn meanwhile were new to me and despite having a display of malts in different cask finishes – the interesting stuff couldn’t be photographed. They had a selection of spirits which represented the history & development of ‘whisky’ throughout it’s long career.
I was presented with a sample that looked like whisky. It certainly tasted like a young & fresh peated whisky with delightfully different notes. Only to be told it happened to be a peated malt aged in chestnut casks for only 6 months!
Totally outside the SWA (Scottish Whisky Association) rules – yet totally tasty & innovative. I just hope Strathearn can come to some arrangement whereby it can be released. I’d be first in the queue to buy it.
I should point out that I rehydrated with water after every sample & rinsed out my tasting glass too to avoid ‘over extending’ myself and contaminating the next sample, which happened to be from Campbeltown distillers Springbank.
They recently released a Longrow Red edition finished in French wine casks which balanced that lovely peaty punch with some sweet fruity notes. Very enjoyable.
I did spot an unusual offering at the other end of the table. A triple distilled Hazelburn! Sadly the soft, smooth & subtle characteristics were a little lost on me after my previous drink – and it was way too sweet for my liking – but a worthy try.
Lough Fyne’s Living Cask – using a solera style maturation with batches drawn off at various intervals – impressed me more than their rather lacklustre blend.
The Islay Boys Flatnöse blend also passed me by. Too much Speyside malt had turned down the Islay peat fire for my liking. The blended malt was a far better offering whilst their Bårelegs Single Malt – from an unnamed Islay distillery – stoked that peat to it’s maximum. I enjoyed it so much – in combination with the attractive packaging & Viking tales – I happily gave it my dram of the day – current release – for the festival.
Oh! The boys were abroad themselves, so one of the mums served me and did a very good job of it too, #whiskymum!
Another Fife distillery recently opened is Lindores Abbey. Famous for the ‘eight bolls of malt’ order from 1494. Their unaged Aqua Vitae infused with gorgeously warming spices is loosely based on what those monks may have been drinking back then. It certainly raised my spirits. What raised my spirits even further was their 70% new make. The clean, crisp & clear taste impressed me very much. Bodes well for intended whisky releases in years to come.
Inchdairnie – another Fife distillery – had the most unusual whisky stand I’ve ever encountered. A black box you’re invited in to be shown the workings & philosophy behind this bold venture. They are using an unusual bespoke Lomond Hill still with unconventional mash filtration along with unusual mash bills containing my favourite – rye. I did get a sample of their new make spirit which impressed me with it’s softly spicy rye & creamy barley mix. I just had to give this my dram of the day – future release – for the whole ‘drama’ of the presentation as well as innovation & taste. I’ll be keeping an eye on the development of this one.
Time was beginning to run out on this session so I had a brief chat with Shilton – the constantly traveling & cheery rep – staffing the only non-Scotch stall of the day showcasing the excellent Paul John Indian whisky range.
To round off this fabulous festival a final couple of drams we’re had at the Ben Nevis stand. Their old recipe based McDonald’s single malt proved peaty, punchy, robust & charming – which made the 10 year old rather soft & subtle in comparison. Give me the bolder character any day over the smoother sibling!
And with that, it was all over!
The bell to clear the hall sounded & happy punters melted out into a wet Cupar warmed by wonderful whisky.
Congratulations to all the team involved in putting this show together.
It puts Fife firmly on the whisky trail.