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Kingsbarns is a village near the Eastern coast of Fife, approximately 7 miles from the historic town of St Andrews. Like its famous neighbour, the village has long been linked with the game of Golf.
The Kingsbarns Golfing Society was formed in 1793 with the course they laid out remaining in use until at least 1850. The current Golf Links however was opened in 2000 and went on to co-host the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship along with the Old Course at St Andrews and Carnoustie. Since 2014 however, the village has also been home to that other most definitive of Scottish institutions, a malt whisky distillery.
The Kingsbarns Distillery was the brainchild of Caddie Douglas Clement, who dreamed of building his own distillery near the Links where he worked. In 2009 he established the Kingsbarns Company of Distillers and spent the next five years working tirelessly to secure funding for the project. £100,000 was injected by 32 private investors, many of whom had been members of Clement’s former golf club. A further £670,000 was secured by means of a Government Grant but ultimately the project would fall short of the £1.6 million required to build the distillery.
Enter the Wemyss Family, owner of Darnley’s Gin and the Wemyss Malts independent bottling firm. They took over the project in 2013 and within six months had begun developing the site. The Kingsbarns Distillery went into production in 2014 and officially opened its doors to the public in 2014 (you can read about my 2017 visit to the distillery here). 2019 saw the release of the first widely available Kingsbarns single malt. Dubbed “Dream to Dram“, this lowland whisky took many by surprise with unusual depth and complexity for one so young.
Earlier this year, I attended the National Whisky Festival in Glasgow and found the Kingsbarns stall pouring samples from an as yet unreleased bourbon-matured single cask. Whilst enjoying a taste of said dram it became clear that it was in fact about to be sold exclusively by the Good Spirits Company of Glasgow, a shop I have been known to frequent in the past.
By February it had appeared in the shop – filled in 2015 and bottled 2019 at a cask strength of 62.1% with a total of 253 bottles available. Now, I try to buy each bottling released by the Good Spirits Co as they have a knack of picking interesting (and sometimes quirky) casks, but sadly my finances weren’t favourable at the time so I resigned myself to giving this one a miss. My thanks therefore to the lovely folks at the shop for sending me a wee sample to enjoy at home.
*Full disclosure: I didn’t pay for the whisky in this review but as always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Malty, grassy and a wee bit herbal. Cereal. Oatcakes. Custard creams, apple danish and lemon drizzle cake. Straw. Almond.
Taste: Vanilla fudge. Biscuit. Fresh bread. Apple / apple juice. Warm oaky spice but remarkably gentle for the high strength – a light dusting of cinnamon. Buttered scones and caramel. Nice silky texture.
Thoughts: Taken at face value, the £75 price tag seems a wee bit high but it is still a rather tasty single malt. It’s pleasingly complex for such a young spirit.
Kingsbarns have thus far been doing an excellent job of showing what can be achieved with good ingredients and a measured approach to maturation. Whilst other new distillers attempt to bludgeon their new make into submission with highly active oak, Kingsbarns seem content to rely on the natural flavours of the spirit, placing malted barley front and centre of the experience. The result is a simple, old fashioned style of single malt devoid of bells and whistles, yet all the more satisfying for it. I really can’t wait to see what comes from this distillery in the future.
Visit the Kingsbarns website here.
Visit the Good Spirits Co. website here.