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The Story of Kingsbarns
Douglas Clement spent many years working as a Caddie at the famous Kingsbarns Links in the East Neuk of Fife. Accustomed to entertaining wealthy tourists who traveled from all over the world to play Golf at St Andrews, Clement became increasingly aware of a desire among his clients to visit a distillery whilst in Scotland. Since the Kingdom of Fife was sadly lacking any such facility, he began to form a plan.
At the centre of this plan lay a derelict 18th century farm on the Cambo Estate which he had earmarked as the perfect location. Calling upon the contacts he built up over the years, Clement was able to raise enough funding to secure planning permission to convert the old farm buildings into a working distillery but further capital would be required to see the job through to completion.
Despite a government grant and two years of crowdfunding, the project fell a little short of the amount required and progress stalled. Fortunately though, all was not lost. Clement’s venture had captured the imagination of the brother and sister team of William and Isabella Wemyss and in 2013, they took over the development of the distillery and before too long, spirit was running from a set of newly installed Pot Stills.
The Wemyss family were no strangers to the Scotch whisky industry. As far back as the 19th century they had granted John Haig land upon which to build his Cameronbridge distillery and in more recent times, entered the market themselves in the shape of blending and bottling company ‘Wemyss Malts’.
Since 2005 the company have been behind the development of blended malt brands like Spice King, Peat Chimney and The Hive, whilst also offering up an array of single casks, sourced from across Scotland. Like so many independent bottlers, the next logical step was to make the move into becoming distillers in their own right and Kingsbarns offered the perfect opportunity to do just that. Under their guidance, work on the distillery was soon completed and the first spirit run took place in March of 2015.
When I visited Kingsbarns in December 2017 I found a charming, modern distillery surrounded by beautiful countryside. Inside was a bright reception space which led to a welcoming cafe and shop area. Beyond that the tour commenced with an introductory video that left the viewer in no doubt as to the target audience. One could almost have been forgiven for thinking they were in some kind of golf museum at first. Any concerns that Kingsbarns would be little more than a tourist trap were dispelled upon entering the distillery proper, however. There, a fine pair of heavily greased Pot Stills spoke volumes. For all the finery of the visitor centre, this was a hard working distillery, designed with the sole intention of producing the finest quality single malt whisky.
2018 saw the release of a three year old single malt available exclusively to ‘Founders Club’ members but less than a year later, ‘Dream to Dram’ arrived on the market. This first core expression of the Kingsbarns malt is bottled at 46% alcohol by volume and retails at around £45.
Smell: Straw, Biscuit, Pastry, Apple, Pear, Lemon, Pineapple, Vanilla, Cream and Toffee.
Taste: Caramel, Toffee, Butter Pastry, Barley Sugar, Vanilla, & Lemon and Gentle Spice.
Thoughts: No complaints at £45. Yes, it’s a young malt but the quality is there, backed up by a 46% bottling strength.
I’ve long been a fan of the blended malts offered by Wemyss Malts and had high hopes for the Kingsbarns malt. Gladly, it does not disappoint. A fresh lowland dram packed full of flavour. On this evidence, the future for this young distillery looks very promising indeed.
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