The coming years will herald several debut whisky reviews from the new Scottish distilleries. All with the odd exception are primed to bottle. Such is the case with the Annandale distillery situated in the Lowland region of Dumfriesshire, which started production in 2014 after an interesting gestation period.
The Man o‘Sword and Man o`Word marked the debut whiskies from the distillery earlier this year. You’d expect with the usual fever we’re seeing around any such releases nowadays but the £300 asking price and packaging failed to ignite public demand and you can still purchase both online. The fanfare has thankfully calmed, letting Annandale go about its business in a quiet fashion. Back to the daily grind of distilling with the distraction of its debut finally removed.
Part of me believes that much like any new Windows or Apple operating system you should skip the initial release. The debut launch. The 1.0 of whisky from a distillery. Generally speaking, rather than specifically Annandale, those first few casks and attempts at distilling are very much a work in progress. For sure, the team won’t let that initial run go to waste and tinkering with the new make spirit may follow shortly afterwards as we’ve seen with Kingsbarns. Step aside and look for a later bottling or even better, a vatting of casks. That way you might save a few quid and acquire a better whisky.
Hence this single cask bottling from A.D. Rattray intended for the Japanese market as an exclusive. This should give us a better idea of the distillery character and how it reacts after just 3 years in an ex-bourbon cask. Legally it can be called whisky and is within the rights of the distillery to bottle, but in our experience, very few Scottish whiskies at this age meet expectations or the price tag being demanded for the experience.
Annandale, of course, hit the headlines when it offered its first cask for the princely sum of £1 million or subsequent casks for 6 figure sums. You cannot blame the team for trying as the madness around whisky continues to spin increasingly twisted and bizarre webs. I do wonder if they have any regrets around it all despite the widespread publicity. Best stick to the actual bottled release seems to be the general outcome and a concept that many onlookers can buy into.
Annandale is a revived distillery as opposed to a totally new concept. The original distillery dates from 1830 and remained in operation until 1921 when like so many across Scotland the decline in whisky demand forced it to close. These once bustling sites were no longer a hive of activity and over time found a new purpose. For Annandale, it was farming and cereal production that ensured not everything was lost with the passage of time.
Then in 2007, the site was purchased by David Thomson and Teresa Church, who shared a vision of bringing distilling back to the decaying site. A momentous challenge that very few would undertake. Requiring over £10 million to transform the distillery to ensure a balance of the traditional and new. Annandale was back in business and by November 2014 was producing 2 different styles of distillate with a peated and unpeated new make.
This Annandale was distilled on 5th February 2015 before being bottled on 1st March 2018. Specially selected and bottled for Shinanoya in Tokyo, Japan, the 1st fill bourbon barrel #155 yielded 264 bottles at 61.1% strength. This sample comes from the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar who are offering it by the dram for a reasonable £12.
A.D. Rattray Annandale 3 year old – review
Colour: a light olive oil
On the nose: a gentle arrival noting the strength with no fiery sense of alcohol. Apple peel, icing sugar and sherbet. A hint of cinnamon, vanilla custard and a touch of smoke. I’m wanting to say a quiet passion fruit as well; there’s certainly a citrus apparel in here. Adding water brings more apples with a splash of lemon but little else underlining its youthful nature.
In the mouth: an interesting texture and a pleasant tingling, but thankfully no burn. Wholesome and enjoyable with green olives, sourdough, almond oil, pear drops and a vanilla cream. Not richly detailed it must be said but pleasant. Water delivers grapefruit, melon and an element of those sour sweeties I hate.
I’d doubt if anyone would pick this out as being just 3 years old. Good cask with good spirit equals a very provoking and pleasing whisky. Also, it must be said a solid cask pick by Shinanoya. A welcome addition to the Lowland ranks. Already more interesting than Auchenstoshan and Glenkinchie; who better watch out.