Last weekend I did my first distillery visit to one of the newer crop of whisky distilleries. During the day we did the standard tour of the distillery which included tasting the new make spirit and one of the ongoing releases from the Wemyss Malts parent company. After the tour we had a lovely lunch in the cafe after the required visit to the distillery shop.
The Kingsbarns distillery was the vision of one man. Douglas Clement was a golf caddy who was asked about where to find a whisky distillery in the area from tourists on the courses in St Andrews. The site he selected was the derelict East Newhall Farm on the Cambo Estate in the village of Kingsbarns.
The farm was built around 1800 by Thomas Erskine and the farm serviced the Cambo house. Many farm features including the “Doocot” (where you keep pigeons) are retained in the restored building which makes the distillery a nice blend of historical heritage and modern whisky production.
When Doug was trying to get the project off the ground he secured a large loan from the bank to get started. It was clear this and the other private investment was not going to be enough so a large experienced local partner in Wemyss Malts came on board and are now the parent company. This is not to undermine the impressive achievements of Doug who’s singular vision and drive is to be admired in my opinion.
Production started in January 2015 so some of the first casks are approaching the legal minimum age for bottling. The new make is available to buy in the distillery shop and selected retail outlets I believe as well.
We went on the standard and cheapest tour at the distillery. Essentially, all the tours are the same but the tasting aspect is different depending on how much you want to spend.
The tour starts with an introduction on the history of how the distillery came into existence. From here we move on to the video of how whisky is made at Kingsbarns featuring Charles Maclean. The next stop is an area set up to allow you to smell the single elements you might smell and taste in a dram of whisky. This is set up for you guess what it might be before being shown the answer. Quite an interesting challenge for any whisky enthusiast. The final stage before the tour proper starts is a stop off to see the first ever filled cask of Kingsbarns spirit.
The tour of the production facilities starts with an explanation of the water source. The distillery has drilled a well on the grounds to get their water and we got to try it as well which was a nice touch.
From here the process of making whisky is explained next to each piece of equipment in the process. I outlined the whisky process in a previous blog post How is Scotch Malt Whisky Made?
The tour ends and we move on to tasting two different spirits. The first is the new make spirit which I did actually enjoy on its own. Fruity but also malty in a typical lowland style would be my impression. The second tasting we got to pick and I chose the Kiln Embers blended malt which I enjoyed as well. A dry BBQ peaty malt which I could see myself picking up in a shop soon.
From the actual distillery shop though I picked up a single cask Bunnahabhain from 1997 and bottled in 2012. One day I will open this and I hope it brings back a similar experience to the “Smouldering Hickory” release I picked up last year which was exclusive only to the Kingsbarns distillery.
Our last port of call before heading back to Glasgow was some lunch in the cafe. The food was good and it was interesting to note locals were using it just for lunch. If the locals are using it for a nice little lunch out for the day then you know the food must be up to standard.
To book a tour online before you go please check out http://www.kingsbarnsdistillery.com/visit-us/tours/