Reviews of interesting whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
St Bridget’s Kirk
This intriguing dram comes from independent bottler Lady of the Glen. I’ve been fortunate enough to try out the two previous expressions in this series and found both to be fantastic whiskies. The name has always interested me, however, so for Batch 3, I thought it would be nice to delve into the history in a little more detail.
St. Bridget’s Kirk is a ruined medieval church in Fife, Scotland. It was built sometime in the 1100s and remained in use for more than 700 years. You may be asking yourself what the church has to do with Lady of the Glen but the ruin stands in the village of Dalgety Bay, where the Hannah Whisky Merchants‘ (owner of LOTG) bottling hall is located.
The church was built to serve the village of Dalgety but nowadays it is all that remains of the original settlement. In 1244, it was dedicated to St Bridget, presumably this is Saint Brigid of Kildare, patroness saint of Ireland and one of that country’s three national saints, along with Patrick and Columba. Despite this association with Ireland, however, Brigid has some popularity in Scotland as well. The towns of East and West Kilbride, for example, are named after her. There is also a St. Bridget’s Primary School in the East End of Glasgow and Lhanbryde, near Elgin, is believed to Pictish for Church of Brigid.
Few historical facts are known about Brigid save that she was likely an Abbess who established several convents of nuns. There are, however, many stories about the miracles she performed. By the sounds of it, she was not a lady to be trifled with…
One story tells of a man who mocked her chastity, telling the young Brigid “The beautiful eye which is in your head will be betrothed to a man though you like it or not.” In response, Brigid thrust her finger in her eye “Here is that beautiful eye for you. I deem it unlikely that anyone will ask you for a blind girl.” She then warned the man that his own two eyes would soon burst in his head. According to legend, her prophecy came true.
In another tale, a young woman came to Brigid in dismay, saying that a noble lord had entrusted her with a silver brooch which she had subsequently lost. Brigid knew better, however. The nobleman had disposed of the brooch himself by throwing it into the sea, knowing full well that a judge would award him the girl as a slave in recompense. To stop it from happening, Brigid went to the sea and caught a fish. When it was cut open, the missing brooch was found inside, sparing the girl a life in service of a deeply unpleasant man.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Brigid, however, was her apparent skill as a dairywoman and brewer. She was, it is said, able to turn water into beer whenever the occasion demanded it, a skill that must surely be among the best miracles ever performed by any Saint, anywhere. I wonder what Brigid would make of having a Scotch whisky named after her..?
As for the church, it was repurposed for protestant worship, following the reformation, and continued in use until the early nineteenth century. By 1830, however, the roof was lost and today, the kirk stands in ruins, albeit under the protective care of Historic Environment Scotland.
St. Bridget’s Kirk is open to visitors. For more information, visit: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/st-bridgets-kirk/
The whisky named after the church is a blended malt, meaning a combination of malt whiskies from two or more distilleries. In this case, the blend consists of four whiskies from the Islay, Highland and Speyside regions. It’s been matured in an oloroso butt and bottled at the healthy yet approachable strength of 48.5%. Retails at £70.
*Full disclosure: The whisky featured in this article was sent to me free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Nutty with caramel – liquidised Snickers Bars! Treacle and Golden Syrup. Raisins. Red berries. Some cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Pepper and some oak char. Some dunnage warehouse aromas emerging. Oak and sherry casks. Only the faintest hint of smoke. Orange peel and a touch of malt. With water I got the bizarre sensation of freshly ironed clothes – no idea what note was causing that.
Taste: Oloroso-led arrival. Toffees and caramels. Treacle. Walnuts and winter spices. Black pepper – very peppery at first, though mellows over time. Medium to full-bodied. Velvety texture. Marmalade and honey. Oak – becomes more noticeably woody the longer it sits on the palate. Smoky finish lingers. Water reduces the intensity of the pepper and makes for a more rounded dram. It also seemed to unleash more of the smoke – with an earthier, more pungent peaty note coming through.
Thought: Satisfying and fully flavoured. Not overly smoky but neither does the sherry completely dominate, although it certainly leads the way. With time and water the balance seemed to improve and make for a more interesting dram, at least for me – those who like that big sherry hit might prefer it without water. Tasting it on a crisp, Autumn day was a winner – the dram itself seems very Autumnal – like fallen leaves, distant coal fires and sultana cake.
Price: £70 might be a wee bit pricey for a 10-year-old blended malt but the quality is good and I think most people would feel they’d got value for money out of their purchase.
For more on Lady of the Glen visit https://www.ladyoftheglen.com/