I recently attended the National Whisky Festival at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. Whilst there, I was pleasantly reminded of the emergence of a new distillery here in the Scottish Highlands, and its young but energetic product: that of GlenWyvis.
The distillery has a history in a sense, perhaps not direct, but rather like a distant cousin who once lived in the same area, and maybe some family traits have been passed on. It’s from two local “lost” distilleries – which closed in 1926 – that the new distillery takes its name: Ben Wyvis and Glenskiach. The new distillery lies in the shadows of the the Ben Wyvis Mountain and was formed through a fundraising exercise, with the first round going live in early 2016 and a second round in 2017. Today, the distillery is very much a community-owned project.
Like many younger distilleries, the first product to be released was a gin. Bottled under the name “Goodwill Gin,” and having been through some experimental maturation, this liquid is still available. But, it was ultimately the prospect of a single malt that made me keep my eyes peeled for a release coming over the Kessock bridge from Ross-shire.
In 2021 it arrived: the inaugural release, bottled with a distillation year of 2018 and a bottling date in 2021, giving it a slightly longer than three years’ period in maturation. As for the wood: information available states there were only 18 casks filled, with the makeup of the marriage being 80% Tennessee whiskey first fill barrels, 15% first fill Moscatel cask and 5% refill whisky casks. An interesting wee mix; how did it hold up to the blending?
GlenWyvis Batch 01/21 – Review
50% ABV, non-chill filtered, no added colour.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: A subtle malty influence, slightly spirity (it is young), vegetal, but floral/sweet.
In the mouth: A bit spirit forward on the initial taste, perhaps more than on the nose, fruity, maybe plums? Or stewed prunes, but I hated that as a kid and I’m kind of enjoying it here. There is a definite essence of brown sugar. On the finish: lingering, fruity, toffee toward the end?
Well, it is not bad, for a young new whisky I’d go as far as to say it is pretty good. I think it is a good representation of Highland whisky; often I’ll find a heather note in Highland drams but maybe it’s hidden behind the youthful façade. Time will tell, I hope!
Not an expensive bottle when released (he inaugural release was sold at approx £95 direct from distillery), but as is usual with inaugural releases they tend to shoot up after the initial sale period (it is now sold out and can command approximately £200 on secondary market). I’d call this an impossible dram to buy now… unless the pockets are deep, and my review is really for historical purpose to lead you onward in the GlenWyvis journey.
Batch 2 of the GlenWyvis spirt is considered the first “major” bottling from the distillery. This release was given a different maturation than the inaugural release, made up from 23 casks this time, the marriage breakdown is: 60% Tennessee first fill, 25% First fill Oloroso, and 15% refill hogsheads. The greater use of wine casks this time is interesting.
GlenWyvis Batch 02/18 – Review
46.5% ABV, non-chill filtered, no added colour.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: A similar malty influence initially to the nose, floral, and a fruit juice sweetness.
In the mouth: A contrast to the Inaugural in that I know it is young, but the fruity influence is much greater. Vanilla comes through but I can really tell that a sherry has been here; orchard fruits, perhaps feels more like a Speyside than a Highland malt! The finish is lingering, with summer berries, fruity leading to bitter, yet sweet chocolate toward the end?
Elegant, young, refreshing, welcoming, and guess what? It’s available! This is an excellent step in relation to the journey that GlenWyvis are heading out on. Yes, it’s still young and no doubt others will find things that perhaps don’t agree with them, but for me it’s a wee cracker, and at around £60 its worth the splash.
GlenWyvis is an example of how someone with a dream can influence others to get onboard and create a sustainable industry in a relatively small community. Their sustainability and community-based ethos is something they strongly promote across their brand. As the whisky element of the company’s output becomes more mainstream (it is currently available across Europe, the Gin has made the trip across to the USA, and hopefully the whisky will appear across the pond soon) it will be interesting to see how the liquid develops and matures. With only two releases – and both with different cask usage – again I’ll be keeping an eye on how they evoke change and difference in their spirit.
Photos courtesy of GlenWyvis.