A gorgeous Spring day in Fife heralded the need to jump into the car and head along the coast. Nowadays these coastal road trips can be punctuated by a couple of distillery visits via Kingsbarns and Eden Mill, with both offering a friendly welcome and plenty of retail therapy.
Time is ticking for both of these whisky hubs, who should debut in 2018 with their own whiskies if they deem their casks ready. For Eden Mill, I’ve seen the distillery start by brewing beer and achieving great success before moving into gin with equally tremendous results. The final stop is whisky and with casks due to be legally called this by January 2018, it’s only a matter of time.
With their beers and gin, Eden Mill have pushed boundaries with various finishes and inventive cask usage. I’ve been interested in how they will take to the more rigidly restrictive realm of Scottish whisky, where inactivity and no change seems to be the favoured approach of the Scotch Whisky Association. Fans of Eden Mill have been able to experience their new make spirit in various forms and the fledging spirit at 1-year-old, all of which you can view here. In the coming weeks we should be able to purchase and experience their spirit at 2 years of age. I’ll certainly be continuing this journey in the coming weeks.
For now it’s with some disappointment whilst we have the details about how these whiskies have been finished and what started as a bit of fun at the distillery, we have nothing regarding the original suppliers nor the ages of the whisky, or malt versus grain ratio. These are core details that would have enabled more reflection upon the cask finishes and their effects. Perhaps the devil is in the detail and Eden were not allowed to disclose where their component recipe came from. What we do know is that the original blend was conceived by the Eden Mill team (not including their own spirit as its not legally whisky yet), then split into the 3 batches we have here and cask finished for a period of a year.
Before we jump into the trio themselves, it’s worth considering the actual bottle design on display for these releases. This might not be the final bottle concept for the debut Eden Mill whisky, but I quite like the visuals on display here. The bottle is easy to hold, the embossed glass ensures a firm grip and an ease of pouring that is lacking in some concepts coming to market.
Art of Blend Batch 1
Bottled at 43%, this is bottle 623 of 2400. Finished in Virgin American Oak Octaves and first fill ex-bourbon barrels. Price £40.
Colour: white grapes
On the nose: a very floral and light perfume-like arrival. Grated lemon and lime with plenty of vanilla. Syrup, a little marzipan and Scotch pancakes. It has a very botanical presence I’d say.
In the mouth: creamier than I was expecting, with plenty of sugary shortbread and vanilla essence. Lemon sponge cake and a buttery texture with a little salted caramel on the finish.
Overall: the first dram this didn’t really float my boat but returning to it, particularly on a warm afternoon it was perfectly pleasant, vapid and inoffensive. I can see exactly why this is the first batch and it should find favour with a casual whisky drinker, gin fan or newbie.
Art of the Blend Batch 2
Bottled at 43%, this is bottle 606 of 1450, and is finished in virgin French Oak Octaves, ex-first fill bourbon barrels and ex-Islay whisky barrels. Price £40.
Colour: apple cider
On the nose: the floral nature remains but is now backed up with a salty brine quality and an oily sunflower oil. Raw pastry then baked shortbread, apples and syrup with a hint of lavender oil.
In the mouth: the saltiness carries through with strawberries, cream crackers and there’s a sweetness on the palate. Sugar cane and toffee with porridge oats. The arrival briefly is that floral aspect; noticeable through experience of having had the initial bottling. Suddenly its swamped and becomes entwined with the dirty vanilla and dark chocolate elements on display.
Overall: it’s the use of the ex-Ardbeg casks here that has created a new layer and added depth. This was the favourite bottling of the trio with the member of staff I had discussed the range in greater detail prior to purchasing. As the number 2 it is ideally placed offering a bridge between the other 2 offerings.
Art of the Blend Batch 3
Bottled at 43%, this bottle 117 of 350, and matured completely in ex-Ardbeg casks. Price £95.
Colour: olive oil
On the nose: more of a light floral peat and salty coastal aroma a menthol edge. Highland heather, white pepper, melted butter and the unpleasant childhood memory of calamine lotion is revived.
In the mouth: initially a vanilla themed coarse roughness from the wood, then there’s a nuttiness followed by some dried bark and a spent charcoal finish. Returning there’s a chalky consistency, a pine resin and a watery vegetative body with a little syrup sweetness.
Overall: the Ardbeg cask has certainly imparted its influence here but you’ve left with a somewhat watery inconsistent whisky that reminds me a little of a Glenisla in that its mostly peat and scratch beneath the surface and it suddenly falls apart.
In conclusion, this has been an interesting experiment to showcase the effects of cask usage. In that respect I’d suggest it’s a success, but the whiskies themselves are somewhat polarising and whilst drinkable I’m a little disappointed, especially with the price point for each of the trio.
We’ll return to Eden Mill shortly on Whisky Rover, as their 2-year-old spirit is due for bottling any day now. However these Art of the Blends do show some skill and inventiveness that bodes well if the final results are a little flawed to the more experienced whisky drinker.