Day 11 brings us another first for our KWM Whisky Advent Calendar – This time the first bottle we have featured from the most northern distillery on mainland Scotland: Wolfburn. Today’s whisky is the Morven, a lightly peated single malt from this young distillery. But first, a bit of history.
The original Wolfburn Distillery was built in 1821 by William Smith. It resided just west of Thurso, Caithness. At the time it was the largest operating distillery in the area of Caithness, producing up to 125,000 Litres of spirit annually. The old distillery was operated successfully and was handed down through several generations of the Smith family until 1837. It was run at least once more in 1852 by David Smith, but that only lasted the year. It may have operated sporadically as well in the 1860s but no official records of this have been found. Not much is known about exactly when and why the original finally and completely distillery shut down, but it did, for good at some point in between 1850 and 1872. When the very first ordinance survey of the area was commissioned in 1872 was made, the distillery buildings were listed as ruins. There are no known photographs of the original distillery. All that remains are the ruins and the production records to mark its existence.
In May of 2011, a team went in search of the long lost distillery of Wolfburn. Nothing of the original distillery survived except the cold clean water from the nearby Wolf Burn they used to produce their spirit. The following year, again in May, work began to rebuild what would supplant Old Pulteney as the northernmost mainland distillery. After breaking ground in August of 2012, construction on the new Wolfburn Distillery was completed with impressive speed, and on Robbie Burns Day 2013 (January 25th) spirit began to flow off the stills for the first time.
The new distillery was built in Henderson Park, Thurso by Aurora Brewing, near the same site as the ruins of its previous namesake. It sits just 350 metres from what is now not much more than a pile of rocks. It produces about 135,000 Litres of spirit a year, just slightly more than its namesake did more than 150 years ago. This makes the new distillery very small by Scottish standards where even the tiniest distilleries owned by the big guys still typically produce a million litres of spirit or more per annum.
The owners and stillmasters focus and going slow and steady when it comes to fermentation and distillation. It has mainly run unpeated spirit off the stills thus far, though they have produced a portion of 10 PPM lightly peated spirit as well since 2014. Maturation-wise, the whisky is aged in a combination of one-third quarter casks, one-third ex-Bourbon barrels or hogsheads, and one-third ex-Oloroso Sherry butts. These casks are kept in one of the two dunnage warehouses on-site.
The Inaugural release of the new Wolfburn single malt happened back in 2016. It was made from ex-bourbon quarter casks that had previously held peated Islay whisky. It was unpeated malt, but the islay casks gave it a lightly peated twist. When it arrived in Alberta it was originally exclusive to us at Kensington Wine Market. We were very impressed with its balanced fresh and oily style.
Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle
Wolfburn Morvern is a newer release and is part of the distillery’s core range. It is made from the distillery’s lightly peated single malt bottled at 46%. It is non-chill-filtered and at Natural Colour, as all Scotch and whisky should be. It is currently exclusive to KWM in Calgary!
Wolfburn Morven – 46% ABV
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: light, earthy peat, sea spray, fruit cocktail syrup, creamy oatmeal, toasted pecans, honeydew melon, eucalyptus, mulled apple cider, a touch of grassiness and a hint of leather shoe polish.
Palate: slightly oily but more creamy in style. earthy and nutty, apples, pears, some dried fruits, a touch of saline, ginger, buttercream frosting and lemon zest and mint.
Finish: warming with soft peat, dried fruits and salty, nutty notes sticking around.
Comment: This is a solid young whisky done right, with an approachable nose and enticingly creamy mouthfeel. The peat is a nice touch and adds nuance, as young peated whisky is typically more interesting than unpeated whisky of the same age. $89
Playing catch-up on our 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar?