Tag Archives: Cameronbridge

Fife Whisky Festival 2020

The 2020 Fife Whisky Festival was my 2nd visit to this wonderful show – and it’s 3rd successful outing held in the Corn Exchange building in Fife’s former County Town of Cupar.

My agenda – as always – is to taste as many new whiskies as I could safely manage – using the water stations to rehydrate along the way.

Spotting a newcomer straight away – I wasted no time in getting stuck in.

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Langatun Old Deer, 40%.

My 1st foray into Swiss Whisky – and very good it was too! Nice clean flavours & a lovely long finish. Old Deer is the sherry finished version – I think the peated Old Bear would have been more my style – but it wasn’t available on the day.

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Angel’s Nectar Rich Peat, 46%.

Rich Peat had a more smoky rather than medicinal quality  & was perfectly balanced with some heavier toffee notes. I found the black bottle & design very alluring too.

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Adelphi Dancey Man, Blend, 40%.

The fancy design caught my eye but the liquid inside was a more mediocre affair and failed to excite my palate.

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Holyrood Distillery Smoky & Sweet New Make, 63.5%.

Part of the next generation Scotch Whisky makers & not around for long enough for whisky so a trio of new makes were offered to entertain. Smoky certainly spoke to me with it’s strong powerfulness & drying peat hit. Sweet didn’t captivate me as much.

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Inchdairnie Ryelaw 2yo 59%.

Inchdairnie continue to excite with their mysterious black tent into which you are invited to nose the marvelous mixed grain mash bills including oats, rye & the more traditional barley. Very impressive & innovative. The Ryelaw was young, fresh & spicy with a good body. I can’t wait for future releases from this ground breaking distillery.

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Matugga Golden Rum, 42%.

Rum made a welcome appearance too. Matugga’s Golden Rum had a smoky funk on the nose, a softly smooth palate & a nice warming finish.

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Matugga Mavuno Rum, 46%.

The innovative aging in Acacia Casks has added a lip smacking dry spiciness to the soft funk. Lovely stuff!

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Cardrona Just Hatched, 64.4%.

All the way from New Zealand came this youthful yet powerfully flavored cask strength single malt. One to look out for.

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James Eadie, Cameronbridge 22yo, Marsala cask, 59.6%.

Stopping by the James Eadie stall to congratulate them on their Trade Mark X Blend. 45.6% enjoyed previously here led onto a wider tasting.

The Cameronbridge was the aptly chosen Fife Whisky Show exclusive – although I found it a bit too sweet for my palate.

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The BenRinnes 11yo Sherry Cask, 59.9% was of similar style.

Meanwhile Caol Ila 9yo, 46% won me over with it’s soft peatiniess & dark fruits.

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Lady Of The Glen, North British 26yo, 49.2%.

Obviously an exclusively bourbon cask matured grain suited me better as I enjoyed the combination of vanillas & woody tannins in this attractively bottled offering.

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Old Perth, Sherry Cask, 43.7%.

This revived blend comes in a variety of styles. Despite not being a favourite finish of mine Old Perth had great flavour that would encourage me to try out the others.

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Kirkwall Bay, 46%.

Independent bottlers Morrison & Mackay release this delightfully dry smoky blended malt.

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Tullibardine 15, 43%.

I’d only recently visited this often overlooked distillery & was pleasantly surprised by the attractiveness & enjoyability of their blended & single malt portfolio. This 15 year old only further cemented my appreciation of this hard working distillery.

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Penderyn Peated 46%.

Penderyn had a large presence at the show. Only when being poured their Peated Gold Range product did I notice the bottle sported angular ‘sides’ with etched lettering. A lovely little attention to detail that matched the attractiveness of the liquid inside.

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Rhiannon, 46%.

I didn’t realize Penderyn’s Icon Of Wales series was still going strong after my happy encounter with the 1st Red Flag release here. Rhiannon is the 7th offering and very attractively labelled too – although she didn’t quite win my palate over.

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Royal Welsh Whisky, 43%.

Modeled on an unearthed original Welsh Whisky bottle from the Frongoch Distillery this Icon Of Wales No 6 was much more up my street. A delightfully balanced peat smoke with heavier, dark fruity notes.

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Daftmill 2007 Winter Batch, 46%.

It wouldn’t be a Fife Whisky Festival without the highly esteemed local distillery.  I’d only sampled straight from the cask before when on a visit prior to their whisky being released here. Now was my chance to sample the finished product. A very finely balanced, even well cultured bourbon cask matured malt with depth & complexity.

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Kilkerran Heavily Peated Batch 2, 60.9%.

Sometimes I just love a bold, brash & youthful ‘in yer face’ kind of whisky. Heavily Peated provided that in bucketloads. Gorgeous.

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Kilkerran Heavily Peated Batch 3, 60.9%.

An as yet unreleased slightly older version of Batch 2. This possessed a more balanced peat hit contrasting with the underlying biscuity malt & sweet vanillas from the bourbon casks. Even more gorgeous.

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Nikka Days, 40%.

After discovering the delights of Nikka From The Barrel on my London walkabout here – the garish label of Days pulled me in. I wasn’t disappointed. A fine blend offering rich vanillas & fruitiness with a hint of smoke from some Yoichi malt.

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A group of merry imbibers shared the  last stall & we partook of a Nikka Coffey Grain, 45%.

I found the whisky an apt dram to raise a final glass.

We toasted another fabulously organized Fife Whisky Show.

I toasted the enduring legacy of Irishman Aeneas Coffey to the modern whisky industry.

And we toasted the return of the show in 2021.

Sláinte

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Innovation & Change in Whisky

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) recently relaxed the rules as to what kind of oak barrels can be used to mature or finish Scotch Whisky in.

This caused a few murmurings on the internet with some in favour – and others against – but it had me pondering on innovation & change in the wider whisky world.

Back in the 1830’s there was a major shift in how whisky was distilled. It centred round the patented design of Irishman Aeneas Coffey’s new still – the Coffey Still – that continues to be the mainstay of whisky production today.

The major whisky producing nation of the time – Ireland – refused to have anything to do with this new fangled machinery.

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Ireland says No! c/othewhiskeynut

As the internet wasn’t around then  – a book was written to say no to the Coffey Still.

Irish Whiskey was producing the market leading ‘traditional’  great tasting single pot still whisky at the time – why bother to change?

Meanwhile in Scotland, a growing band of mainly non distillery producers were experimenting with this innovative new ‘silent spirit’ to release a product called blended whisky.

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Cameronbridge grain distillery. Largest in Europe. Built 1830 & still going strong. c/othewhiskeynut

Slowly but surely this ‘non traditional’ blended whisky caught on.

A combination of affordability, accessibility, easy tasting and clever marketing brought about a revolution in whisky fortunes and turned the underdog into the new master.

Blended whisky is the major player in worldwide whisky production today making up to 80% of sales.

Currently Irish Whiskey is one of the fastest growing segments in the whisky community. Relatively unhindered by tight regulations it is innovating like mad and releasing fabulous tasting whiskey.

Failure to innovate nearly 200 years ago almost brought Irish Whiskey to it’s knees. All the more marvelous to witness the phoenix like rebirth & stunning growth happening now.

The ever pragmatic SWA will have noticed this – and are responding accordingly.

Sláinte

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Header photo Athrú Whiskey – athrú meaning change in Irish.

Kingsbarns Distillery, Fife, Scotland.

I happened to be in Scotland over the Bank Holiday weekend & used the opportunity to visit a whisky distillery.

Kingsbarns Distillery is the dream of local lad Douglas Clement who was frequently asked during his golfing caddie days if there was a local whisky distillery to visit.

At the time Fife – despite being the spiritual home of golf as represented by the St Andrew’s Links Course – as well as the spiritual home of Scotch whisky – well, at least the earliest written record as represented by the ‘8 bolls of malt‘ ordered in 1494 from nearby Lindores Abbey – had no whisky distilleries.

Well at least no sexy & sleek single malt distilleries.

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Cameronbridge Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Because in Cameronbridge Distillery – which happens to be the largest in Europe – I would argue Fife has the spiritual home of blended whisky.

Originally founded in 1824 as the Haig Distillery, it used the newfangled invention called the continuous still – as designed by Stein & later improved upon by Irishman Coffey – to produce gazillions of gallons of grain whisky. This heralded in the rise of blended whisky which underpins & fuels the wealth of the whisky industry today.

Cameronbridge still produces gazillions of gallons of grain whisky to this day, but like most giant grain distilleries with their industrial style of production, it is out of bounds for whisky tourists.

Kingsbarns Distillery is definitely not out of bounds.

It’s whole premise in fact could be interpreted as a visitors attraction that happens to produce whisky.

It’s early days for that whisky yet however.

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The 1st cask c/othewhiskeynut

Only opened in November 2014 with the first barrel of new make being filled & registered in March 2015 – it can only legally be called whisky in March 2018.

In the meantime there is a lovely delightful Spirit Drink to sample as part of the very informative & enjoyable tour.

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B-raw spirit indeed! c/othewhiskeynut

Bottled at 63.5% this fresh, bright & clear raw whisky certainly exploded in my mouth with the high alcohol content. Yet it retained some subtle soft sweet barley notes which hinted at good things to come. Adding a drop of water only diluted the overall experience and I preferred the raw energy of the full strength offering.

All the barley used is grown locally with the water being sourced in an aquifer deep underground below the sandstone rock underneath the distillery itself.

Wemyss Malts – a long established & respected family of independent whisky bottlers & blenders also hailing from Fife – or should that be fae Fife? – are also behind the distillery. An eclectic array of their blended malts and single cask expressions are on display in the visitors entrance area.

Talking about Fay Fife – here she is singing her classic hit Top Of The Pops!

As part of the tour I sampled the Kiln Embers blended malt at 46%. A pretty little sweet smoke of a whisky.

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Kiln Embers c/othewhiskeynut

I also bought a couple of age statement Peat Chimney miniatures – airport restriction friendly – for later enjoyment back in Ireland.

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A pair of peat c/othewhiskeynut

The Kingsbarns Single Malt however – when it is fully matured – will be a softer, fruity & floral bourbon cask aged single malt. Fife after all has no peat banks but is awash with lush fields of barley & fecund banks of wild flowers & shrubs which attract a rich bio-diversity of wildlife.

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Used Bourbon Cask waiting filling c/othewhiskeynut

Even while sitting outside the well presented cafe – enjoying some locally sourced & produced fare – I was gently serenaded by Skylarks singing high in the sky above me accompanied by Pheasants rooting around in the hedgerows below.

As a visitors attraction Kingsbarns excels.

The long drive into the historic & carefully restored building from the main A917 road well serviced by the St Andrews to Leven 95 bus route. Views of the verdant countryside with the blue sea glimmering closeby. Friendly attentive uniformed staff both in the well appointed cafe & distillery. A highly informative tour that encompassed the history, geology, sights, sounds & smells of both Fife – as well as the process of whisky making itself.

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Aromatic display c/othewhiskeynut

I even surprised myself by correctly identifying a few of the interactive ‘aromatic world’ samples!

Along with some beautiful whisky.

What’s not to like?

Fife is also fast becoming a whisky tourist destination in it’s own right with up to 6 whisky distilleries either currently up and running as in Cameronbridge, Kingsbarns, Daftmill & Eden Mill – or yet to be completed as in Lindores Distillery & Inchdairnie.

A world of whisky awaits!

Sláinte

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