Kingsbarns. The new king of single malts in the Kingdom of Fife?
Actual Kingsbarns Single Malt Whisky may not be ready for drinking yet, but they did get one thing right. They somehow kept the building which was beautifully worn and aged and yet still made it feel modern and new. There is history within this historical building in the Kingdom of Fife. At the same time something very modern is happening inside. Most of this post will be in regards to who started Kingsbarns and where it stands now. It may be a new distillery compared to most, but it has already had its fair share of changes. It will give a great look into a new player in the whisky industry that I did not know existed until I came across this distillery.
Kingsbarns is in a location that may not put it on everyone’s whisky trail “to-do” because it is located in Fife and is only one of a handful of small distilleries out that way. A few craft breweries/distilleries like Eden Mill have popped up, but Kingsbarns was really the first one to set up and take advantage of an empty market. There definitely is a lot of money in the area to be spent. As some of you golf fans may know, Fife is where the town of St. Andrews is. This is also where golfers from all over the world come and championships for the PGA are held. It is quite marvelous and it also means there are a lot of people around with a lot of money. This kind of marketplace is why Kingsbarns was founded by a golf caddie at the local golf course.
It was Douglas Clement, the golf caddie, which not only recognized the demand for a distillery, but also saw that the needed resources were at his fingertips. Fife is predominantly made up of sandstone, meaning the water he would use is mineral rich from interacting with these rocks and would take on some new, great flavors. Barley is also still widely grown throughout Fife and they still pride themselves on having all barley used grown in the local area. He found the old farm building used for the distillery because it is close to the golf course he worked at. With all of these pieces in place, he then began looking for investments. He was able get quite a bit of funding to revitalize the farm building and start testing some production runs, but it still wasn’t enough. As many of you know, whisky has a long lead time to see any return on your investment. He ended up selling the brand and distillery to a company called Wemyss.
This is where I gained new prospective on the industry, not just of whisky, but of a very powerful family run business in Scotland. The Wemyss family has their hands dipped into many different kinds of businesses, but before purchasing Kingsbarns, were bottlers of blends and single cask whisky. In Scotland they are very well known, but this was all news to me. I find them very interesting. A family like this, in a region that currently doesn’t have any single malts coming out of it, could make a huge statement in the next decade with Kingsbarns. Seems to me to be quite a smart investment. Either way, it was ironic, because the AirBnB family I was staying with, their son works for Wemyss. Not on the whisky side, a different business, but I am hoping to put the connection through to meet with their marketing director. I would love to know what else they have planned for their whisky future! Not only for Kingsbarns, but also for their blends. Also, just to note, the couple that I stayed with at AirBnB became like a family to me. I miss them already!
A few quick notes in regards to production capabilities for this distillery. In this farmhouse was what they called a “doocot”. A doocot is where farmers kept their birds and collected their eggs. Quite interesting, because after working in NYC for a bit, you could never imagine collecting pigeons eggs. Regardless, it is considered a historical monument. Nothing could be built higher than the doocot and the doocot had to stay. This meant they would dig into the ground to put the size stills in they wanted. This makes for a very chic and cool looking still room. They use two different kinds of yeast- one called anchor and one from France. It is interesting that they use a combo. There are stainless steel washbacks, which make sense, because it is a new facility. Their low wines still was super fat at the bottom and in general their stills were huge. They typically use 85% bourbon casks from Heaven Hill Distillery and then the spirit spends some time in sherry casks. All of the barrels are aged in Glenrothes, Scotland because they weren’t given a permit to build additional buildings for warehousing. Although you will see below a picture of the doocot and the first filled cask is actually aging on site. So, unfortunately we have will have to wait probably about another decade to taste this product, but I will be patiently waiting. Here are the tasting notes for the new make spirit (what was distilled, but not aged) and one of the Wemyss blends.
Kingsbarns New Make
Holly’s Tasting note..
Nose: Caramel, pear, very fresh fruit.
Palate: Malty, one of those Dole Fruit Cups with one cherry in it. Lingers of grapefruit juice.
This is currently only sold in the shop, but not bad for new make! This is why I see so much promise for how it will age.
Wemyss Spice King - Blend
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Pepper, almost like a jalapeno spice/kick to the nose with a blend of sweet old fruit.
Palate: Berry’s, pepper, allspice with a blackberry finish.
Here is what their master blender got for Spice King…
Next up is Tullibardine..