Things are seemingly ticking over nicely for Wolfburn as it launches a new whisky in the form of the Morven. This is a lightly peated whisky coming in at around 10ppm, is bottled at a robust 46% ABV and launches nationally on 28th September.
A delicate touch of peat can provide body and seasoning to a whisky, particularly at the youthful age range we’re dealing with here. Yes, Morven is a No Age Statement, in keeping with the general Wolfburn core range, but we know it’s a juvenile based on when the distillery became operational. On the upside, it’s naturally coloured, which explains the foreboding dark glass and gorgeous design. It is an impressive beast visually with the whisky also being non-chill filtered and retailing for a palatable price of around £45.
Age, in the end, doesn’t matter. It’s all down to the whisky and I often highlight a visit to Islay where the whiskies were endless and the ages stratospheric. However, the best drinking experience during the visit was too young to be called whisky. Taken straight from an ex-bourbon cask, this spirit was around 2.5 years old, had bags of character and was utterly delicious.
More recently, during a visit to a notable independent bottler, I was told a story about a 2 star Michelin chef who refused various cask samples stating that he would not drink a whisky under 16 years of age. If I had been a participant during this tour, I would have put his egotistical aloofness head-first into a cask. Whilst it is your prerogative as to what you drink, I’ve never come across such an approach before. Perhaps it’s more indicative of the luxury end of the marketplace where trophy bottles are prized and being seen with an exclusive whisky is all that matters. The taste arguably comes further down the list. Personally, such a rule immediately removes classics from distilleries including Ardbeg, Cragganmore and Talisker from my shelf.
The point being, whisky is ready when the cask and the spirit ideally say so. Unfortunately with Wolfburn – as with most distilleries – there are commercial decisions to be made and revenue streams to be opened. Unlike, say, Ballindalloch Distillery, which is waiting 8 years before bottling, or Daftmill that is never going to bottle at this rate if Francis has his way.
My interactions with Wolfburn so far have been variable. The debut Wolfburn single malt was a touch disappointing and lacked any distillery or coastal character. Things improved with the Wolfburn Aurora, which offered more depth, but again I was left searching for the distillery character. This may come with time and patience, as do all good things in whisky so let’s see if this peated expression is more successful. Based on my experience, younger peat can be a lovely thing and no doubt will be very popular at retail where peat remains very much in fashion. My thanks to the Carnegie Whisky Cellars for the sample and they will have the Morven on sale at £42.95 from today.
Wolfburn Morven Review
Colour: almost devoid of colour, just a splash of honey
On the nose: a rather gentle salted caramel is at the forefront. The freshness of pine nuts and an aromatic baked apple is followed by a chalky mineral aspect. Highland heather and the noticeable vegetative decay of peat round off a decent presentation.
In the mouth: the peat is here but doesn’t dominate proceedings and really only comes into its own on the lingering finish. Prior to this the peat offers sweetness, yes there’s vanilla but the balance is impressive. More of the baked apple comes through, then noticeable cask char, wisp of smoke and a light toffee, before we’re back to the fruit with pear drops.
The Morven isn’t sensational, but it is the best release from this distillery to date. The peat works extremely well within the context of this young whisky. It’s a very easy drinking dram with just enough coastal peat to leave you pouring another without realising. Perhaps a touch too expensive for what it is, but in this age of youthful spirits selling for a similar price if not more, this is at least a whisky, well-presented and ticks the boxes.