Tag Archives: Coffey Still

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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John L Sullivan – The New Silent Whisky?

There has been a lot of hot air expended over a bottle of whiskey recently by the name of John L Sullivan.

John L Sullivan is a sourced whiskey brand. They – like many other sourced brands – get their whiskey from a reputable Irish whiskey distillery. They can then proceed to promote, brand, distribute and blend this whiskey in any way they see fit.

Just as many other companies do.

The particular expression that everyone is getting hot under the collar about is one where they have mixed the Irish whiskey with an American bourbon – also sourced from a reputable distillery in the USA – to create a hybrid type of blend.

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Exhibit A c/oJohnLWhiskey.com

This hybrid whiskey has garnished rave reviews in some regions here.

And an outpouring of scorn in others.

A facebook thread in Ireland castigates this whiskey as ‘fake’ & ‘pseudo’. It likens the whiskey to the ‘gutrot’ produced by gangsters during prohibitions times which allegedly brought the Irish whiskey industry to it’s knees.

I just don’t buy that narrative.

I congratulate John L Sullivan for coming up with a new & exciting product that can offer an innovative new taste experience to customers – as well as opening up a new revenue stream for Irish whiskey.

The Irish whiskey industry has a long proud history and culture.

But part of that culture is resisting new means and methods of  making whiskey.

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Truths About Whisky c/oTeelings

In 1878 a book was published denouncing the new form of whisky being made by an invention called the Coffey Still.

That new whisky was called ‘silent whisky’ and we now know it as  grain whiskey.

Nowadays that ‘silent whisky’ is the main constituent in blended whiskey – which is the very backbone of the modern global whiskey industry making up to 90% of all sales worldwide.

Sections of the Scottish whisky industry took to this new product in the 1840’s to create market leading brands that are still popular today.

It took at least another 100 years for the Irish whiskey industry to fully engage with the new methods. None of the 4 large Dublin whiskey distilleries who commissioned the book exist today

What if this new hybrid whiskey becomes the next ‘silent whisky’ in terms of future sales?

Is the Irish whiskey industry of today going to inflict the first cut in it’s demise as it did in the past?

And as the old song goes, The First Cut Is The Deepest.

Or is this new style of whiskey going to be embraced?

Being a new style means there will be labelling issues, regulatory red-tape and legal gremlins to sort out.

Hopefully that is in process.

Whiskey is fluid.

It has constantly flowed, changing and evolving throughout it’s long existence.

History is not kind on those who wish to stop that flow.

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My thanks to The Whiskey Jug for the header image.

 

 

 

Irish Single Grain Set Piece

Irish Single Grain Whiskey is a bit of a rare breed. Malted barley in pot stills is the norm and has been for centuries – even after fellow Irishman Aeneas Coffey invented his new continuous still around 1830 which sparked the rise of Scottish blended whisky. He did offer it to his fellow countrymen first – but so tied to their superior product they declined – so Aeneas went abroad and the rest is history.

Blended whiskey – a mixture of both malted pot still and grain continuous still spirits – accounts for about 90% of whisky sales worldwide – so is nothing to be scoffed.

Grain Whiskey is generally seen as the inferior spirit in a blend and only a few offerings are available in Ireland or even Scotland.

Ireland had to wait until the 1990’s before it’s first single grain offering was released from the Cooley Distillery in Louth when it opened in 1987.

Kilbeggan Single Grain
Kilbeggan Single Grain

Released as an 8 year old – Greenore Single Grain has recently been re-branded as Kilbeggan Single Grain by the current owners of Cooley, Beam/Suntory. Other age statements are available; 6, 10, 15, 18, 19 and 21 but may be hard to find and/or limited release.

Grain generally needs longer in the barrel to absorb the flavours than malt. Greenore reflects that by being a mild tasting approachable whiskey not unlike The Glenlivet but very enjoyable nonetheless. Bottled at 40% ,mainly made from maize.  B

Single Grain c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Single Grain c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Teeling Single Grain follows on from Greenore in more ways than one. Also produced at Cooley by the former owners under John Teeling, many of the team at that plant are now the main force behind the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Innovation is almost part of the Teeling culture and finishing this single grain in Californian Wine Casks certainly does that in raising the aroma and taste of this lovely smooth whiskey. Bottled at 46%, non-chill filtered, no age statement  – it’s no surprise that World’s Best Single Grain 2104 went to this expression. B+

Glendalough Double Barrel c/o Glendalough Distillery
Glendalough Double Barrel c/o Glendalough Distillery

Glendalough Double Barrel is another new player in the Irish Whiskey market. They certainly hit the mark with this expression. As with many new entrants waiting for their spirit to mature – Glendalough has sourced this product from a third party. I originally thought Cooley – but with a malted barley and corn mash I’m not so certain. The malted barley certainly adds a bit more depth to the taste and the olorosso finish only adds to the experience. One to keep Teeling on their toes! Bottled at 42%, no age statement.   B+ 

Single Grain Selection c/o Whiskey Nut
Single Grain Selection c/o Whiskey Nut

A delightful trio of Single Grain Whiskeys to tempt you with their individual take on the silent spirit. All very good whiskeys too for a gentle evening drink. I’m finding it hard to decide between the Teeling or Glendalough as my favorite but think the latter just wins out with the fuller body – probably imparted by the barley content.

If you haven’t tried a single grain yet – now is the time!

Slainte

The Whiskey Nut