A gorgeous Spring day in Fife heralded the need to jump into
the car and head along the coast. Nowadays these coastal road trips can be
punctuated by a couple of distillery visits via Kingsbarns and Eden Mill, with
both offering a friendly welcome and plenty of retail therapy.
Time is ticking for both of these whisky hubs, who should
debut in 2018 with their own whiskies if they deem their casks ready. For Eden
Mill, I’ve seen the distillery start by brewing beer and achieving great
success before moving into gin with equally tremendous results. The final stop
is whisky and with casks due to be legally called this by January 2018, it’s
only a matter of time.
With their beers and gin, Eden Mill have pushed boundaries
with various finishes and inventive cask usage. I’ve been interested in how
they will take to the more rigidly restrictive realm of Scottish whisky, where
inactivity and no change seems to be the favoured approach of the Scotch Whisky
Association. Fans of Eden Mill have been able to experience their new make
spirit in various forms and the fledging spirit at 1-year-old, all of which you can view here. In the coming weeks we should be able to purchase and experience
their spirit at 2 years of age. I’ll certainly be continuing this journey in
the coming weeks.
For now it’s with some disappointment whilst we have the details
about how these whiskies have been finished and what started as a bit of fun at
the distillery, we have nothing regarding the original suppliers nor the ages of
the whisky, or malt versus grain ratio. These are core details that would have
enabled more reflection upon the cask finishes and their effects. Perhaps the devil is in the detail and Eden were not allowed to disclose where their component recipe came from. What we do know
is that the original blend was conceived by the Eden Mill team (not including
their own spirit as its not legally whisky yet), then split into the 3 batches
we have here and cask finished for a period of a year.
Before we jump into the trio themselves, it’s worth
considering the actual bottle design on display for these releases. This might
not be the final bottle concept for the debut Eden Mill whisky, but I quite
like the visuals on display here. The bottle is easy to hold, the embossed
glass ensures a firm grip and an ease of pouring that is lacking in some
concepts coming to market.
Art of Blend Batch 1
Bottled at 43%, this is bottle 623 of 2400. Finished in
Virgin American Oak Octaves and first fill ex-bourbon barrels. Price £40.
Colour: white grapes
Nose: a very floral and light perfume-like arrival. Grated lemon
and lime with plenty of vanilla. Syrup, a little marzipan and Scotch pancakes. It has a very botanical presence I'd say.
Taste: creamier than I was expecting, with plenty of sugary
shortbread and vanilla essence. Lemon sponge cake and a buttery texture with a
little salted caramel on the finish.
Overall: the first dram this didn’t really float my boat but
returning to it, particularly on a warm afternoon it was perfectly pleasant, vapid and
inoffensive. I can see exactly why this is the first batch and it should find
favour with a casual whisky drinker, gin fan or newbie.
Art of the Blend Batch 2
Bottled at 43%, this is bottle 606 of 1450, and is finished in virgin French
Oak Octaves, ex-first fill bourbon barrels and ex-Islay whisky barrels. Price £40.
Colour: apple cider
Nose: the floral nature remains but is now backed up with a
salty brine quality and an oily sunflower oil. Raw pastry then baked shortbread, apples and syrup
with a hint of lavender oil.
Taste: the saltiness carries through with strawberries,
cream crackers and there's a sweetness on the palate. Sugar cane and toffee with porridge oats. The arrival briefly is that floral aspect; noticeable through experience of having had the initial bottling. Suddenly its swamped and becomes entwined with the dirty vanilla and dark chocolate elements on display.
Overall: it’s the use of the ex-Ardbeg casks here that has created
a new layer and added depth. This was the favourite bottling of the trio with the member of staff I had discussed the range in greater detail prior to purchasing. As the number 2 it is ideally placed offering a bridge between the other 2 offerings.
Art of the Blend Batch 3
Bottled at 43%, this bottle 117 of 350, and matured completely in ex-Ardbeg casks. Price £95.
Colour: olive oil
Nose: more of a light floral peat and salty coastal aroma a menthol edge. Highland heather, white pepper, melted butter and the unpleasant childhood memory of calamine lotion is
Taste: initially a vanilla themed coarse roughness from the wood, then there’s a nuttiness followed by some dried bark and a
spent charcoal finish. Returning there’s a chalky consistency, a pine resin and
a watery vegetative body with a little syrup sweetness.
Overall: the Ardbeg cask has certainly imparted its
influence here but you’ve left with a somewhat watery inconsistent whisky that reminds
me a little of a Glenisla in that its mostly peat and scratch beneath
the surface and it suddenly falls apart.
In conclusion, this has been an interesting
experiment to showcase the effects of cask usage. In that respect I’d suggest
it’s a success, but the whiskies themselves are somewhat polarising and whilst
drinkable I’m a little disappointed, especially with the price point for each of the
We’ll return to Eden Mill shortly on Whisky Rover, as their 2-year-old
spirit is due for bottling any day now. However these Art of the Blends do show some skill and inventiveness that bodes well if the final results are a little flawed to the more experienced whisky drinker.
Labels: ardbeg, blended scotch whisky, eden mill, featured