It’s always exciting to try a single malt whisky from a new distillery for the first time. Given the recent boom it is in danger of becoming a regular event in the not so distant future. However there are still opportunities out there mainly with distilleries that were ahead of the curve and are biding their time.
This is a case in point with Abhainn Dearg distillery on the Isle of Lewis, which is the most Westerly of all the distilleries in Scotland and unlikely to be beaten on this aspect given its location. I’m visiting Lewis (as well as Harris) to pick off another couple of distilleries from my outstanding visitor hit-list. It seemed only polite that I should actually try a whisky from Abhainn Dearg prior to my visit.
Established in 2008, it was the first distillery on the Outer Hebrides since 1829. They had big plans including growing their own barley on the island which can endure the most rugged of climates. The concept was simple being labelled from field to bottle and they’ve achieved their ambition.
Unlike many new-ish distilleries the plan isn’t to bottle from the legal 3 years and a day requirement. Whilst a very limited number of bottlings have been made available (including the one reviewed here), the distillery has decided against bottling at other ages. Their goal is to have the next release as a 10 year whisky in 2018 when it will be bottled once more. An admirable ambition that will shortly become reality when others are only just bottling their own young spirits.
I’ll discuss the distillery in more detail after my visit in another article. For now lets see what promise this whisky offers us. This single cask bottling comes from a fine oak cask and is natural colour, non chill filtered and bottled at 46% strength.
Abhainn Dearg Single Malt Review
Colour: a pale yellow
On the nose: almonds and pencil shavings, fresh pancakes with butter. A hint of lemon, green apples and vanilla. White grapes and white bread with the green ends of spring onions. Malty, with sugar and pear drops.
In the mouth: a rush of lemon, wine gums and a light honey. Sandlewood, some vanilla and sherbet dib dabs. More cooking apples with icing sugar and what I can only say is malt vinegar.
A fun nose leads into a very distinctive pallet. At stage in its development its more akin to a young grain whisky. It does already possess character and an original one. I’m very interested to see where the 10 year old takes us next; it could be something very special in an age of new distilleries with similar distillates. Abhainn Dearg promises to be a rugged and uncompromising whisky; a perfect accompaniment to its place of birth.