Glasgow and Fife
Another couple of distillery trips right outside Edinburgh: Clydeside and Kingsbarn.
Being in a new golden era of whisky, recent years saw a plethora of new single malt distilleries being built around Scotland and the rest of the world. A few new ones are in the Lowlands. Here, distilleries opened really all over the place: in Fife (remember our trip to Lindores Abbey?), in Edinburgh (someone said Holyrood?), in the south of Scotland (ehm-ehm, Borders), and in Glasgow. One of the most recent here, is the Clydeside distillery, which opened in 2017 and started producing new make spirit in 2018. We visited it back in November 2019, at a time we were getting more and more involved into whisky. We spotted an event in the SMWS website which included the distillery tour plus tasting and bites. What else could we ask?
Coincidentally, a couple of friends of ours were visiting, so we gladly involved them in the visit (we’re still unsure whether they really wanted to get involved, but they didn’t say “no”). Being a time when people used to go every day to the office, Teresa was already in Glasgow, and the three of us reached her in the late afternoon. At the time the distillery was not quite easy to reach by public transport from the city centre, so we grabbed an Uber. The distillery building is beautiful, a mix of modern and industrial architecture, right on the side of the Clyde river (well, the distillery name kind of gave it away, I guess…). There is a whisky shop inside the visitor centre, with a wide selection of whiskies.
The tour was very nice, we had to translate it in Italian for our friends, so we ended up not taking any pictures (and tbh, at the time the blog idea was not there yet…), but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We were very happy to try the newmake spirit at the end of it. Being a SMWS one, the rest of the tasting was quite great as well, and there we could try a single grain whisky distilled a couple of days Gianluigi was born! The bites were a bit underwhelming, so to calm our hungry stomachs we had to get a (very typical late night in Glasgow) kebab when we were back in the city centre, before our train back to Edinburgh. At the time they didn’t have any official release yet, but now that they have, we are waiting for the right occasion to go back to Glasgow and try something tasty!
Among the most prolific areas for new distilleries, Fife could almost be a region on its own now. We recently visited Lindores Abbey, but among the new distilleries we can count for Aberargie, Daftmill, Eden Mill, Inchdairnie, and Kingsbarns. We visited the latter in March 2020, right before the pandemic. The event was organized by the Fife Whisky Festival, and consisted in the projection of the Amber Light documentary, featuring Dave Broom, and the tour of the distillery. To attend this event Gianluigi had to turn down a free ticket offer for a Scotland rugby game at Murrayfield, where it was playing against France. His epidemiologist instinct suggested avoiding big crowds, since Covid was already spreading across Italy and, in his mind, it was just a matter of time for it to get to Scotland.
Reaching the distillery in a combination of train and buses turned out not being the cheapest, we ended up spending more money than what a rented car would have costed at the time. However, it paid off as the distillery is situated in a very beautiful spot of the Fife coast, nearby the sea and meters away from golf courses. The projection of the movie was not the best, due to the initial technical problems and a very low audio volume.
The distillery was built in 2014 on an abandoned farm originally from the 1800s, of which they retained the main structure (including the pigeon house and, as many newly built distilleries, they have a café, where you can have food and tasty cakes. The very enthusiastic tour guide walked us through the production stages, and tested our ability to recognize flavours and aromas in a dedicated area. We understood that the intention was to release single malt at a young age, therefore commonly to others they use lots of shaved, toasted and recharred (STR) casks. They started making newmake spirit in 2015 (the first cask is exposed in the visitor centre), which we could taste at the end of the tour, together with a first core range expression, Dream to Dram (46%, ex bourbon and STR casks), and the Family Reserve: a similar expression but bottled at cask strength. The distillery is owned by the Wemyss Family, which is an independent bottler as well, so we were also offered a Velvet Fig 25y/o malt from their range. We particularly liked the Family Reserve expression, however at the time we had a 10-day trip to Islay scheduled for the end of the month, so we didn’t buy it and we got a couple of Wemyss blended malts miniatures instead…fortunately we could find that bottle months later, since that trip to Islay never happened.
In spite of the young age, the drams we had were both very tasty. We recently attended a Kingsbarns vertical tasting at the Tipsy Midgie, in Edinburgh, which confirmed how promising their whisky is, when matured in a range of casks as well. Overall, getting to know these new distilleries is very exciting: all of them can offer a unique take on single malt, and unlike many of their older brothers, the new and family-owned ones have more freedom to experiment and provide innovation in the category. Being able to reach them (more or less) easily is definitely a big “plus”!
Until the next adveture, stay safe and sláinte!
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