“We take the samples every year, compare every year, compare in amoungst the family, compare vintages. We’re looking at it lots of different ways.”
So says our Head Distiller, Adam Hannett, surrounded by carefully labelled 200ml bottles in his new lair in warehouse 12. We are currently distilling the last of 2021’s spirit made from barley grown in three distinct regions of mainland Scotland.
One day, he would love to share some of these “regional trials” whiskies in some sort of sample kit. A series of single farm, single harvest distillations, same barley variety, same processes, same maturation. To open up the conversation about terroir and its affect on flavour that we’ve been having with ourselves for a long time.
“It’s easy to say all these kinds of things. But unless you actually do what we’ve done, tasting those new spirits, side by side, year on year…”
“The idea hasn’t always been that we’ll always release it as Aberdeenshire or Lothian or Black Isle, it’s been about understanding the idea of terroir in the spirit. And then following that through, for our own interest and understanding, following that through in the maturation process as well.
“We’re seeing it does make a difference where the barley is grown, to the flavour profile, to the balance. It does. The new make has been key to understanding this. But if you have 2014 new spirit, 2014 year 2, 2014 year 3, you can see that character staying. You can trace the similarities all the way through.”
But as 6 weeks’ worth of our annual production, sometimes as many as 9 weeks, every year for seven years? The conversation also goes beyond terroir and tasting kits.
“The big picture is that the majority of that spirit that we make will be going into our vattings, our multi vintage cuvees like Classic Laddie, and we’ll just have this amazing traceability. It’s not just treated as a commodity.” He acknowledges that the commodity system has its benefits in terms of efficiency, consistency, alcohol yields, “But there’s just more to it than that. I think that’s what we see. We know we’re sourcing from specific people, specific places, specific varieties of barley. Because it’s the connection, it’s the bigger picture, it’s the understanding which brings so much more to the final product.
“It’s just what you value. And I think we value that relationship and that traceability, more than people have in the past. And telling that story, because it’s a great story. It’s the story of the whisky itself. What we want to do is tell the story of the whisky, and be transparent and be open.”