Venerable distilleries have earned our trust with a history of quality drams; we know what to expect and their legacy in the industry means their brands are synonymous with whisky itself. However, as the exciting world of whisky skyrockets in popularity, new distilleries are opening and bravely defining their own signature in a market full of industry giants.

An idea often perpetuated in whisky is that age is a defining factor in quality: the older, the better. This notion can, unfortunately, enforce a reluctance to try whisky from young distilleries. Age is one of many factors that will affect how we experience whisky, and using this equation can close our doors to other exciting frontiers of innovation and, ultimately, delicious whisky! As such, at the Grain & Glass we’re always eager to showcase new distilleries and the fruits of their vision.

In this article, we’ll be exploring a handful of new distilleries and some of the exciting ways in which they’re defining themselves and their whisky.

Transparency

Picture @ Waterford website

Waterford barley

We whisky enthusiasts love to know what we’re drinking. It can often be difficult to ascertain the truths on how our favourite drams are produced. From casks make-ups to batch sizes to types of peat, these facts are often shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Newer distilleries often break this convention as they boast of their new lengths in experimental and transparent approaches to constructing whisky. Whether it’s Waterford with their meticulous record of barley and farm origins, Bimber with their hands-on approach of an onsite cooper and even using their cellar to experiment with malting, or Sliabh Liag Distillers and their Master Distiller using peat from his back garden, there are lots of fascinating topics to keep us whisky lovers intoxicated on information.

Casks

Picture @ Starward website

Starward Casks

We recognise some brands by their cask focus. Many of us will have our “sherried” or “bourbon” cask brand that we will turn to when we want to be comforted by an old friend, but for those want to be taken our of their comfort zone there are many creative and surprising offerings from younger bold distilleries.

At the recent London Whisky Show, we were lucky enough to try the new ginger beer cask expression from Starward, an Australian distillery with a rich cask focus, and it did exactly what it promised: a big spicy gingery dram that serves as a fantastic showcase of how much influence a cask has on whisky. Copenhagen Distillery were also present at the show and were exhibiting their Negroni cask aged spirit – no, you did not misread that, they have seasoned a cask with Negroni cocktail before filling it with their spirit!

These are just a couple of the many brave endeavours undertaken by young distilleries who are not afraid to break conventions.

Legacy

Picture @ Lindores Abbey website

Lindores Abbey still house

A distillery may be new, but that doesn’t mean its site isn’t steeped in history and the team isn’t boasting a wealth of experience. New brands are often the result of veteran teams looking to redefine themselves or rejuvenate a site with a long legacy in whisky production.

Ardnamurchan distillery only began distilling in 2014, but its construction marked a return to distilling from one of the oldest names in scotch: Adelphi. With a history stretching back to the early 1800’s, Adelphi enjoyed over a century of producing whisky before they hung their hat and focused on independently bottling. Now they have returned to the art of distilling with Ardnamurchan to reassert themselves in a field they pioneered.

Meanwhile, on the quiet banks of the River Tay, arguably the most important site in Scotch Whisky lay slumbering for hundreds of years. Lindores Abbey sits in whisky legend as the first written mention of a site where distilling was occurring in Scotland. In 1494, King James the IV commissioned 8 bolls of malt to be turned into Aqua Vitae, an early term to what we would now consider new make spirit. In 2015, this holy site was carefully transformed into a working distillery, whilst meticulously preserving the history and artefacts discovered. Lindores Abbey Distillery recently released their inaugural whisky and have enjoyed positive feedback from their audience.

Quality

Picture @ Bimber website

Bimber fermentation

Whilst all these facets are interesting and admirable, there’s usually one question on all our lips: does it taste good? Of course, this is largely subjective, we all have our personal preferences and older spirit will give different characteristics to younger and livelier whisky, but the whisky-boom has seen a general change in how whisky is produced, focusing on a slower approach to distilling with the benefit of capturing compounds which result in tastier spirit, and these lower yield and high quality approaches are widely accepted by newer distilleries. Aspects such as extended fermentation times, more active and exotic casks, rethinking the cut size during distillation, etc, are often engrained in the ethos of smaller artisanal distilleries who can’t rely on an existing aged stock and need a high quality young spirit.

From the View of a Bar

Grain & Glass tasting

We’ve only scratched the surface on the exciting releases coming out of new distilleries. As with all things whisky, there’s so much to talk about and explore, but the best way to experience it is to try it yourself. At the Grain & Glass, we showcase several of the whiskies mentioned above, including Ardnamurchan, Lindores Abbey, Waterford and Bimber, as well as many not mentioned such as Nc’nean , Aber Falls, Torabhaig, Dartmoor and many more.

We’re always working to change antiquated perceptions on young whiskies. We love to hear the fascinating tales of how new distilleries have come to be, then delivering the fruits of their labours into the hands of fellow whisky lovers. Come see us at the bar to sample these historic releases yourself and indulge in the enthralling frontier of new distilleries.


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