Wolfburn Morven 46% vs Aurora 46%

Wolfburn is a newer distillery from the Highlands…

So the story goes, once upon a time there was a Wolfburn distillery based in Thurso, Caithness that was founded in 1821 by William Smith that time produced approximately 1,25,000 litres a year… yet ceased operations sometime in the 1850s. Though the old distillery is long gone, the folks who founded Wolfburn 2.0 in 2013 based it in a similar location to take advantage of the water from the Wolf Burn.

Our host was captured by the quality and character of its new make spirit and has been a believer in the distillery ever since.

And what did we think?

Wolfburn Morven 46%

  • Nose – Hard boiled sweet, bubble gum, cherry, pure sure with red dye, white grape, honeyed ham
  • Palate – Peat, very sweet, a bit of spice, sweetened condensed milk
  • Finish – Bitter sweet
  • Water – No temptation to add

Truth be told, we found it almost too sweet… for me it almost reminded me of being matured in a cognac cask like Brenne… The peat has a light touch… a mere 10 ppm.

While there are no official tasting notes on the Wolfburn website, the chaps over at  Master of Malt have something to say….

A late 2017 addition to Wolfburn’s core range, Morven is a lightly peated single malt from the northernmost distillery in mainland Scotland. This expression rounds out the distillery’s range well (which also features their signature Northland Single Malt and the handsomely Sherried Aurora Single Malt) and shows that the relatively new distillery has plenty to offer already.

  • Nose: Fresh notes of juicy apple and white grape are deliciously juxtaposed with earthy, mineral-y peat.
  • Palate: Nutty malt pairs well with soft smoke, joined by peppered oak and caramelised fruit developing later on.
  • Finish: Sweet hints of shortbread and ginger stick around on the finish.

Just to contrast we decided to try the Wolfburn Aurora side by side…

Photo: Wolfburn

Wolfburn Aurora 46%

  • Nose – Sweet, yoghurt, capsule, over-ripe pineapple, boiled sweets
  • Palate – Sweet spice, could there be some light smoke too?
  • Finish – Liquorice
  • Water – Again, no temptation to add….

This was much more our preferred style… still sweet but in moderation with enough other elements to hint at a character worth waiting to see its future avatars.

And what do the folks at Wolfburn have to say?

MELLOW AND GOLDEN
This beautiful sherried whisky is made from spirit laid down in a combination of American oak and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. Benefitting from long fermentation and slow, gentle distillation, the spirit is laid down on site in our purpose-built warehouses. At the end of the maturation process the casks are brought together to create an exceptionally smooth and perfectly balanced dram.

We had to wonder, where is the light peat from?  Our host shared that while the malt is unpeated, it is matured in an ex-Islay cask for a “kiss of peat”… making for just a hint not more.

For those curious, Wolfburn is available in India… check out The Vault Fine Spirits or Mumbai airport duty free.

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a swallows and discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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New kid on the old block… Wolfburn 46%

After an experiment that clearly demonstrated how ‘greedy’ the angels in a warm climate can be… we moved on to sample a completely different whisky.

Once upon a time, there was a distillery in the town of Thurso, the northernmost Scottish mainland distillery. It was founded in 1821 by William Smith and was apparently one of the largest producers in the country. However by the 1850s, production of Wolfburn ceased.

However what was once old, is now new… again! The new Wolfburn avatar opened near the site of the old distillery, using un-peated malt, pot distillation with no automation.

wolfburn-batch-1

Wolfburn 46% Batch 1 (Mar 2016) 

What did we find?

  • Nose – Sharp, earthy, organic, wet soaks, sour lemon, lab, cereals, initially no smoke but then after sipping, could easily discern a faint wisp of peat
  • Palate – Quite a zing, honey flower sweet, strong with some mocha walnut ‘oomph’ with a lovely echo of peat
  • Finish – Short, bitter sweet. As one put it “It stops at the tonsils”

While clearly young, showed promise and what we particularly enjoyed was the echo of peat – that added a quality that made this whisky stand out in its approach. It also has more substance than one normally expects from a mere three year old.

Apparently this comes from it being aged in an ex-Islay quarter cask. The smaller cask clearly contributed to accelerating the absorption of the cask flavours.

wolfburnHere’s what the Wolfburn folks have to say:

“On the nose you’ll find fruit and malty aromas, with just a hint of peat. On the tongue, sweet and nutty flavours are present, which coat the palate to leave a very slight pleasant flavour of smoke. It is a joy to drink – I hope you enjoy every drop.” Shane Fraser, Distillery Manager

We agreed it is a promising start and look forward to seeing what comes next!

PS If you are keen to try, Wolfburn is available in India through The Vault Fine Spirits

Here’s what others say:

PS Tobi from Barley Mania has an interview with Shane Fraser worth checking out here!

Other whiskies sampled in our experimental evening:

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Experimental Evening – Glenmorangie, Wolfburn + Dailuaine

Finally after a two month hiatus our original tasting group re-united with full quorum!

As usual, we sampled completely blind… before revealing the whisky. In this case, there was a twist…

glenmorangie-wolfburn-dailuaine

Whiskies sampled included:

Related posts:

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Singapore “Speed Dating” Whisky…

Singapore may be expensive as far as whisky purchasing is concerned, however it never fails to deliver a new discovery.

There are some terrific night spots to nip into for a whisky flight (or two) – The Auld Alliance, Flagship and Quaich.

There are always unique offerings at La Maison du Whisky.

Even Changi Airport is no slouch as a spot to sample something novel with its range of whiskies from everyday duty-free to airport exclusives to a special “I have way too much money” collection upstairs…

So what did my August 2016 Singapore trip have in store?

It began with a pilgrimage to La Maison du Whisky

I stopped by early, well in advance of 6 PM ‘sampling’ time to pre-select options more or less under SG$200, less readily accessible elsewhere, not a repeat of any previous drams and could spark conversation from our fellow samplers back in Mumbai.

After a bit of careful thought, Priscilla sprung into action and began pulling out a few… checking some possibilities that I declined… to come up with a diverse shortlist. My sampling companion arrived and we began our final selection process by “speed dating” each whisky with quick short nips.

Puni Italian Trio

We began with a trio from Italy. Yes… Italy. We compared (right to left):

Puni Nova Bourbon Cask 43% 

  • Matured in American and European oak casks, initially seemed just grains, flowers, honey and vanilla… relatively standard on the palate.
  • In short, dismissed as not terribly interesting… but after the others, we found ourselves drawn back… then it really began to grow on us… for a young whisky, it has something quite enjoyable and attractive for a lighter dram.

Puni Alba Limited Edition 43%

  • Limited edition, uses barley, wheat and a locally grown rye matured from six months to three years in oak barrels that previously contained Sicilian marsala, Pinot Noir from South Tyrol and Zibibbo from Pantelleria.
  • And the result? Interesting, definitely interesting, but also oddly schizophrenic… simply didn’t seem to know what direction, here there or where?
  • Was it a light romp or storm the bastions? No balance between the sweet and spice elements like a cocktail with too many ingredients.

Puni Alba Marsala Islay 43%

  • Matured in Marsala and Islay casks, initially attracted attention – quite different with its pronounced cloves, range of fruits, peat, tobacco and nuts.
  • However like a one trick pony, we kept waiting for more… then reached back to the Puni Nova as the more drinkable dram!

Bruichladdich 1990 24 year

Next up was Bruichladdich 1990 24 year 56.5%

  • I was pre-disposed to fall in love… after all this was a special bottle for LMDW from a distillery that produces a rather interesting range of whiskies…
  • Eager anticipation, I took the first few whiffs…. and sip… And had the opposite reaction.
  • Harsh cloves cinnamon no softness… thin rather than layered and robust
  • Perhaps it needed time to air, a few drops of water or simply more consideration possible in a quick sample however didn’t pass the taste test… and in fairness, not all whiskies do… some simply require patience and attention not possible when “speed dating”

W+M Sherry + Sansibar Islay

We then moved on to two independents without the distillery disclosed:

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry Cask Malt 2006 43%

  • As you would expect from a sherry, lots of delicious stewed fruits, a distinctly winey quality yet accompanying this was also a richer nutty dimension that brought you back for another nosing again and again
  • On the palate it was mellow, smooth and seemed to have many more layers than we could properly discern in a small taster… overall left you with the impression of an eminently drinkable dram

Sansibar Islay 8 year 52.5%

  • Sansibar are new independent bottlers from Germany and a first for me!
  • Unlike some who disclose minute detail about the cask, here the approach is different sharing only that it comes from a single cask, aged 8 years (2007-15) with 330 bottles…. and the rest? Up to you to guess!
  • We quickly pronounced it a fine specimen of an Islay malt
  • Compared it with the distillery official bottling – no doubt which WE preferred!

Wolfburn

Wolfburn 46% Batch #2

  • As a new re-entry, this distillery has been on my radar and considered in London with rather honest advice “It is still quite raw” enabling the Teerenpeli to win that round (I’m ever so grateful!)
  • From 7.03.2016, Distillery Manager Shane Fraser shares “On the nose you’ll find fruit and malty aromas, with a hint of peat. On the tongue, sweet and nutty flavours are present, which coat the palate and leave a very slight pleasant flavour of smoke. It is a joy to drink – I hope you enjoy every drop.”
  • This one was thrown in as a courtesy to let me try as a bottle was not available for purchase. Yes there is fruit, nuts, hint of peat, quite intense with lots of promise but not there yet – a bit ruff, gruff and certainly not balanced.
  • However… Let’s just say I’m looking forward to seeing what more comes… though can safely skip this one…

Taylor

We then shifted our attention to the Americas… In this case, to potentially obtain a 3rd American whiskey as counterpoint for two recent acquisitions direct to Mumbai from Denver, Colorado…

For this ‘brief’ we explored a duo from Colonel E. H. Taylor, part of the Buffalo Trace stable:

  • Small Batch 50% – What a change to shift gear to a rye! I’ll admit I’m neither a bourbon nor rye aficionado, however for this style, was a rather good example.
  • Barrel Proof 63.6% – Packs a serious wallop! As in galloping head on into all senses, firing all cylinders. Yowza!

Singapore Airport's Whisky Wall

Next up Changi Airport…  A few highlights / lowlights include:

  • Suntory has launched outside of Japan The Chita… Quite reasonably priced, alas it was not the exquisite Chita Single Grain 12 year I picked up in Tokyo years ago. Easy to pass…
  • However the Kavalan selection was tempting with a Sherry cask strength for less than SG$100. And a new Kavalan Peaty Cask – matured in a cask which previously held a peated whisky for SG$175.

What made the final cut for purchase?

You will just need to be patient til one or more whiskies sampled make it into a focused tasting session.

  • Sept 2016 – Wolfburn Batch #1 makes its way via another original tasting group member
  • Jan 2017 – The Italian Puni Alba was a hit with the original tasting group!

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