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Kingsbarns distillery was the brainchild of Douglas Clement, a former caddie at the golf course that adjoins the site. After witnessing firsthand the enormous interest in the subject of whisky amongst his worldwide client-base, Clement hatched a plan to bring distilling to Fife and targeted an old farm steading on the Cambo House Estate as the ideal location. Planning permission was secured in 2010 but raising the capital required to turn the dream to reality proved difficult. It wasn’t long however before the project attracted the attention of the Wemyss family, themselves no strangers to the whisky industry. Work finally began in 2013 with the first spirit run taking place in March of 2015.
I paid Kingsbarns a visit on a cold, clear day in November and was instantly smitten by its coastal location. The whole site seemed to have been blasted clean by the fresh north sea air and the old farm buildings looked majestic in the cool Autumn sunlight. Visitors are greeted by a large entrance lobby with a welcoming cafe to the right, while a little further on is an impressive bottle shop peddling new make spirit, Darnley’s Gin and a selection of Wemyss’ single cask bottlings and blended malts.
The visitor experience begins with an introductory video which leaves you under no illusion as to where the tourist income lies here – I had no idea what the definition of a links course was until I visited this distillery. Golf education aside, the tour then moved on to a fun interactive sensory experience that invites you to identify a range of different odours, before offering a taste of the distilleries water, bottled direct from the bore-hole onsite. The effect water has on spirit is debatable, but so noticeable was the high mineral content on the palate, that it leads me to believe it must surely play some role, even if tiny, in the final character of the whisky.
The industrial nature of the distillery itself almost came as a shock after the pristine visitor centre and the worn aspect of the stills made them look 30 years old rather than 3. I must confess however, that I rather like to see a grimy still. Their dark, grubby appearance was a pleasing contrast to the gleaming copper of the Clydeside and Lindores Abbey distilleries which I visited the same week. While those projects were very much in their infancy, Kingsbarns has been operational for a couple of years now – and it shows. For all their courting of golf tourism, this remains very much a working distillery with the goal of producing a fine quality single malt at its very heart.
Back at the shop, I decided to take home a bottle of the Batch Strength version of Wemyss’ blended malt ‘The Hive’, bottled at 54.5% and costing £45.00.
Smell: Honeycomb, Heather, Shortbread, Malt and Caramel, touch of Chocolate and faintest hint of Smoke.
Taste: Chocolate and Honeycomb (like Crunchy Bars!), Cereal and Orange Liqueur.
Value for Money: Credit where it’s due, Wemyss have released these batch strength versions of their core range blended malts without too much of a markup in price. A great quality dram for the very reasonable cost of £45.00.
I’m something of a fan of Wemyss’ blended malt offerings and have already reviewed the limited edition Kiln Embers, but of their core range, The Hive is normally the least appealing to me. The batch strength expression however, seemed to offer a little more… While the character remains very much in the same style, the higher alcoholic strength adds new depths to its flavour profile. Blended Malts continue to represent some of the best value for money on the market today and this is yet another fine example from Wemyss Malts.