Brian Townsend, our regular whisky columnist, samples the goods from an East Neuk distillery.
Kingsbarns Distillery near Crail, which began distilling in 2015, has just launched its first new expression since its original Dream to Dram malt almost two years ago. It is Balcomie, a sherry-casked malt named after the nearby historic, and reputedly haunted, Fife coast castle.
The casks which are used to mature this malt, namely 500-litre sherry butts, are particularly interesting, being American oak but which for decades matured lighter types of sherry in Spain before being carefully selected and brought to Kingsbarns.
The result is intriguing. Sherry-casked malts tend to be dark and heavy with fruity sherry notes often predominating. Balcomie is different – light-coloured, slightly spicy and with a subtle hint of sherry, rather than the more emphatic flavour that darker sherries create.
Some 9,000 bottles are being marketed, available this month (November) from the distillery, selected stockists and on the net. It is five years old but has a remarkable smoothness and maturity for such a relatively young malt. Bottled at 46% abv, the RRP is £49.99.
Allowing for ullage, the angels’ share and dilution from cask strength, 9000 bottles works out at around 10 500-litre sherry butts. Kingsbarns have said a second edition of Balcomie will be launched in 2021, and possibly a smaller batch of port-casked malt, which should prove well worth waiting for.
Kingsbarns Distillery belongs to Wemyss Malts, launched by brother and sister team William and Isabella Wemyss in 2005 after years of importing fine wines. Their independent firm produces many blended malts—such as The Hive, Spice King, Peat Chimney, Nectar Grove, Vanilla Burst, Treacle Chest and Velvet Fig – plus a wide range of single-cask malts.
Fife once had several malt distilleries, such as Auchtertool, Auchtermuchty and Grange, in addition to the vast Cameron Bridge grain distillery, today Europe’s biggest. Those small distilleries closed in the difficult 1920s, but recent years have seen Daftmill, Lindores Abbey and Kingsbarns open and, once the pandemic recedes, others will doubtless follow.
Balcomie is a great addition to the Wemyss range and would make a welcome festive gift, even to oneself…