Back in 2014, I started the long journey with Eden Mill and its fledgeling attempts at a new make spirit. Even then the essence of experimentation and the mystery of what the distillery style should be proved elusive. I’m a firm believer in that you can tinker too much and consultants will lead you down a similar style to everyone else. The end result is a whisky that comfortably fits in with the rest of field but doesn’t stand apart.
Eden Mill thankfully kept that spirit of adventure alive. Originally starting out producing decent beer before moving into gin, the ultimate goal was whisky. Living in Fife it’s been refreshing to see an endeavour go from strength to strength. Checking Malt the other day we have just the 9 Eden Mill articles right back to 2014 when it was focused on beer. Yes, at times some of the whiskies I’ve tasted – or spirits – at 1 or 2 years old have received a lukewarm reception. Virgin oak is a pungent and formidable thing. Whisky is all about the right moment, patience and balance. Something that has been hijacked by the wood comes across as pummelled and distorted; you can feel it with experience.
Still, a few locals and those from further afield followed Eden Mill on this journey with their various styles of new make then the subsequent aged spirits. At times I’ve been a little puzzled. Confused almost as to what an Eden Mill whisky should represent in the glass. Honestly, I’m sure the team at the distillery are still forging ahead and discovering their true identity and the distillery DNA, as I like to call it. The forthcoming larger version of the distillery will hopefully help establish what direction they wish to pursue.
What is the essence of what Eden Mill truly represents? Finally, it struck me whilst visiting the distillery recently and being faced with this Hip Flask Series. This Fife distillery isn’t set on Inchdarnie volume, Kingbarns style or Lindores heritage. Of the quartet, Eden Mill is the more adventurous and the fact it doesn’t possess a distillery DNA underlines its experimental direction. Yes, I haven’t mentioned Daftmill yet, but planet Daftmill is very much in its own orbit and follows its own rules – speaking of which when will that Berry Bros. release land?
We’re going to be seeing a great deal of 3 year old whisky appearing as distilleries are legally able to bottle their own single malt whisky. Is it ready? In most cases far from it – just look at Wolfburn – drinkable but any lasting impression? None whatsoever. Business plans, shareholders, investors, owners etc. all have that slice of the cake and 3 years or more in a financial world is as long as a tour around Jura distillery followed by the nightmare of a vertical tasting. At Malt we understand that many have a necessity to bottle at this pivotal age to showcase how they are progressing. At least Kilkerran took the right approach benchmarking the 12 year as their goal and working towards it with the Work In Progress series. There as well you could follow the journey as many have done with Eden Mill, even though Kilkerran was clearly ready way before a 12 year old expression hit the shelves.
This Eden Mill chapter is closing with the arrival of the 3 year old and legal whisky status. Of course, there will be the demand in this vibrant investment and flipping era for a single malt bottling. This has been bottled as a 3 year old with an outturn of just 300. A large proportion of these have gone to the staff and those who helped the distillery reach this point. The remainder in all likelihood will be sold to cask owners and possibly those such as myself who have made the journey with the distillery. A nice touch and it’s very unlikely that any single malt from this initial release will be sold at retail or via the distillery to the general public. We’ll talk a little about the single malt itself towards the end of this article. Funnily enough, the actual asking price had yet to be determined when we visited the distillery last week. That’s very much Eden Mill’s style and comes as no surprise especially with the handmade wooden boxes taking several weeks to be completed.
The team wanted to give whisky enthusiasts and the wider public a taste of their efforts given the limitations of the 300 only edition. Hence this Hip Flask Series that is bottled in a dinky 20cl size with a vibrant colour scheme implemented. It’s a novel and eye-catching solution to the problem. Each highlights a particular single cask of whisky and style. The theory being that you can explore and discover and thereby appreciate all the wonderful little nuisances of distillation and maturation without destroying the bank balance. Single cask editions 1-5 are limited to just 220 bottles with the sherry hogsheads numbering 1350. These were retailing at £25 a piece and are proving very popular on the Eden Mill online shop with only numbers 6 & 7 still remaining at the time of writing.
Unfortunately such is the scale of demand for any new whisky. By limiting the single malt bottling to an outturn of 300, all that’s essentially happened is a seismic shift. The market that would have pursued the bottle have instead focused on this experimental series. However, you have to appreciate the effort. And for once I’m neutral about the flippers as the distillery themselves are auctioning a couple full sets of the Hip Flask Series along with the 1st 10 bottles of single malt currently via an online auction site. With bottle #1 receiving bids in excess of £7000 and rising. It’s a shame part of their heritage is being sold to the highest bidder but such are the mad times we live in currently.
The upswing of this Hip Flask Series is the team will continue to support it. Each is bottled at a robust 47% strength and further different releases are planned. These may include some previously unreleased types of casks such as port, brandy and of course a peated spirit. In essence, this series could run and run…
That’s for the future but for now, Eden Mill generously invited those who had followed their various ages of spirit along to the distillery for a tasting of the Hip Flask Series. There was no fee or any special treatment for Malt or the artist formerly known as Whisky Rover. This is the way things should be. Not a junket or freebie to say kind, benign and pointless words. Instead if its bottled as a single malt, it’ll be judged as such.
Eden Mill Hip Flask Series No.1 – review
Pale malt, French virgin octave filled 21/11/2014
Colour: a creamy caramel.
On the nose: there’s a real freshness and vibrancy of the wood on the nose. Floral almost, light and with a touch of citrus. Buttery followed by honey and lots of vanilla.
In the mouth: a little pineapple cuts through the oiliness, cream and the dominant vanilla. There’s no real progression beyond the initial arrival. Just the wood teetering on the brink of overpowering the whole palate.
Eden Mill Hip Flask Series No.2 – review
Chocolate malt 7%, US virgin oak octave filled 31/12/2014
Colour: dried hay.
On the nose: now less of the cask and more of a marriage. A lightness with a touch of chocolate unsurprisingly with black pepper, lemon peel and towards the end caramel.
In the mouth: it’s still young on the palate without too many layers but its balanced and pleasant. A slight nuttiness, toffee fudge, a biscuit base and some dark chocolate flakes.
Eden Mill Hip Flask Series No.3 – review
Brown crystal malt, US virgin oak octave filled 8/1/2015
Colour: apple juice.
On the nose: again that virgin oak freshness is noticeable. Heather, golden syrup, calamine lotion and caramel. Pine cones, wood shavings and apples.
In the mouth: enjoyable without too much flavour. A bit grain like in its texture and neutral qualities. More buttery oiliness, almonds, orange sherbet and vanilla yes, but not as forceful as the No.1 release.
Eden Mill Hip Flask Series No.4 – review
Pale spirit, French virgin octave filled 11/12/2014
On the nose: toffee apples, butterscotch, chocolate and raisins. A good cask clearly with varnish and a little waxiness.
In the mouth: a chocolate finish, prior to that its a creamy vanilla toffee with a little resin. Sawdust, kindling, nougat and hazelnuts.
Eden Mill Hip Flask Series No.5 – review
Frankenstein’s malt bill, US virgin oak octave filled 13/2/2015
On the nose: as the name suggests elements of all the about. Pine cones, flour, caramel and an apple vibrancy. Almonds, oatcakes, the chocolate and that virgin cask freshness fighting to come out from the shadows.
In the mouth: really interesting on the palate more harmony than any of the other releases. A pine freshness, honey, mint leaf and more of the juicy meadow fruits. Vanilla again but in the mix rather than dominating.
The missing duo and a single malt
No.6 Pale spirit, Oloroso Sherry hogshead filled 22/1/2015
No.7 Pale malt, PX Sherry hogshead filled 20/2/2015
Frankly, I was caught short with empty sample vessels resulting in a brief synopsis of both. The Oloroso due to the size of the cask possessed a noticeable rich sherry fruit aroma. On the palate, if felt a little youthful and limited not offering much apart from that initial burst of fruit and leather. The PX was much drier especially on the palate where it offered more character than the Oloroso, but was rather timid on the nose. I’d give both a 4 for effort whilst underlying the promise is evident but a little patience is required and time.
The single malt itself was a bonus treat. Matured in a combination of American and French Virgin Oak quarter casks and an ex Pedro Ximinex sherry hogshead since 2014. Bottled at 47%, I could tell you the suggested price to the lucky few but the finalised details were still to be ironed out. However, as a whisky itself, it was actually better than I had anticipated. Being a vatting of different casks its a clever way of trying to camouflage the youthful nature of the whisky. Perfectly drinkable, it’s pleasant enough without stopping you dead in your tracks. Is this the Eden Mill distillery DNA I’ve been searching for? No, until we have specific single cask releases on a more widespread scale that is yet to be determined and the new distillery will be the key component.
As for the Hip Series itself, it’s an inventive approach to a new age whisky problem. My own particular favourites were No.2 for the chocolate malt and the depth of flavour, followed by the experimental nature of No.5 given its Frankenstein naming as a result of remnants of other casks being combined. This perhaps showcases Eden Mill better than any of the 6 releases and their own luxurious single malt. Apart from those 2, both the sherry editions have value and No.4 was very promising. Unfortunately, due to the nature of octaves, these experimental batches need to be watched closely as eventually given half a chance the wood will take the reigns. Still, each is very different and I’m sure most reading this would be able to pick out the tangibles given the opportunity.
For Eden Mill, this chapter is coming to an end, but there is clearly more experimentation and adventure still to come. Hold on tight.