#10.3 Whisky in Edinburgh and beyond


Dramming in
Glasgow and Fife

Another couple of distillery trips right outside Edinburgh: Clydeside and Kingsbarn

(missed Part 2 or Part 1?)

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!

Arriving at Kingsbarns!

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.

A very focused Teresa!

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.

Shiny happy mashtun holding mash!

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!

Whisky Activities Links


#2.7 A very Scottish summer holiday

A trip to Orkney Speyside et al.
(day 10)


The hard climb of Ben Lomond, and our final reward: the Auchentoshan distillery visit.

(Back to Days 7-8-9 / Days 5-6 / Day 4 / Day 3 / Day 2 / Day 1)

The last day of our holidays started early, around 6.30, because we had a great plan for the morning: climb Ben Lomond! So, after a quick breakfast at the van, we put our boots on and took the trail to the summit. The sky was very grey, and we hoped it would clear up a bit later. Spoiler alert: it did not. Actually, after the first couple of km, we got “inside” the clouds, so not only it was cold but also very wet. We took the less steep trail (“less steep” so to speak, because it’s still over 900m of ascent in less than 7k, compared to the other one which is about a km shorter). Despite the harsh climb and the terrible weather, we got to the summit, just to admire the whitest of the view: it looked like we were on Solaris!

The very rewarding view from the top of Ben Lomond.

The descent was a bit more enjoyable because of the view on the lake, which we could finally see after a km past the summit. We arrived at the campervan very very wet, but very very satisfied as well! A quick change of clothing, and a soup at the Clansman, and we were on the road again to go grab our prize for the morning climb, direction: the Auchentoshan distillery in Glasgow!

Finally, the lake!

The distillery was reachable directly from the highway, so after a stop for a coffee and a detour because of roadworks, we arrived there fairly easily. Being a bit early, we had plenty of time for a deep inspection of the distillery shop. A couple of tips: they have an expression of their malt finished in Chardonnay casks (NAS and bottled at 47%), and we also found the cheapest glencairn holders made of cask wood! We were fortunate to get in in time to avoid an almost tropical storm (did someone say “climate change”?), which considering we were at the end of our holidays and that we had already had a change of clothes earlier in the morning, would have been not so great.

That very short moment of no rain…

The other two guys joining us were not so lucky, and they started the tasting a bit wet. The tasting we had chosen was the Auchentoshan Masterclass. A particularity of this distillery is that, unlike many others in the Highlands which used to dry their barley with peat before the train lines were built, Auchentoshan never did that. Of course, this is because they are in Glasgow, which granted access to coal much earlier. We were very curious about this distillery, of which we already had a couple of bottles. Although the American Oak expression is fair for the money you pay for it at some grocery store, the Three Woods one already shows a bit of character (maybe for the 43% abv instead of 40%?). The tasting was guided by Douglas, which definitely knew his drams! During the tasting we found out that he’s from the same village as the other two guys (and we will find out later that one of the guys’ sisters works in the same institute as Gianluigi, although they never met…the whisky world is smaller and smaller!).

A very generous tasting.

We started with a sample of new make spirit, which is something that we really appreciated as it is a fundamental piece to understand the character of what will become single malt. It did not disappoint: fruity and very light. The second dram was an 18y matured completely in ex-bourbon casks, which they can source directly from Jim Beam and Makers Marks, being part of the same company. A nice dram, a bit underwhelming probably due to the 40% and the chill-filtering (doesn’t look like it’s artificially coloured though, it’s very pale!). By contrast, the next it’s the already known Three Woods (with these being American Oak, ex-Sherry casks and ex-PX casks). A sherry bomb, not bad for being a non-age statement. But the real deal is coming with the last two drams, coming from their distillery casks: a vintage 2010, full maturation in an ex-bordeaux red wine cask, and a vintage 2006 from an ex-oloroso sherry cask, both cask strength (and natural colour and non-chill filtered). Both drams were absolutely delicious, but while in the second the sherry cask had definitely a big impact, in the former the soft spirit character was definitely still alive and kicking, mixing all the red fruits and grapes notes from the wine. So, we had our confirmation that Auchentoshan can have a mouthfeel, and it is quite impressive too!

One for our pals of the Edinburgh Whisky Group!

Coming out of the distillery we gave a ride to our whisky pals, to avoid them getting soaked again. And then, we finally drove towards Leith, which took a couple of hours (one of which just to exit Glasgow’s traffic jam) under an incessant rain.  Once again, we were so happy that despite the initial setback, we had managed to take this trip anyway. All the midges and the rain in the world cannot beat this: amazing landscapes, great people and incredible whiskies. Sometimes we can’t believe how lucky we have that life brought us here. Until next time, slainte!

Auchentoshan Masterclass

Price: £30.00 pp (August 2021)

Tasting: 5 drams: new make spirit, Auchentoshan 18y, Three Woods, two distillery exclusive single cask 2010 ex-bordeaux cask finish and 2006 ex-oloroso cask

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: very good

Highlights: the drams

Things we did not like: nothing

Link: https://www.auchentoshan.com/