Whilst much of Scotland has endured the wettest summer weather on record the Outer Hebrides has suffered the severest drought in living memory and the only distillery in the area, Abhainn Dearg, was unable to produce any new spirit for a whole three months over the summer due to the lack of water. Intrigued, the Blog team made the winding journey to one of Scotland’s very remote distilleries for the second time this year to investigate how the dry warm weather has affected cask maturation. We were delighted to find our arrival coincided with torrential rain and so to find the distillery already back in full production.
It’s now almost four years since the first spirit ran off the former illicit stills of the Red River Distillery, and with the copper stills now having bedded in somewhat, the result is a spirit which is noticeably softer on the palate, less metallic and with some curious banana skin notes. The classic bold barley sugars and farmyard aromas we are pleased to report are still prevalent.
Since our last visit in April construction has commenced on a new bottling hall with plans in place to build a new dunnage warehouse and glass frontage to the still room in 2013. Hot on the heels of that Bruichladdich incident – Brian Cox, out of the movies, had just spent a day filming at Abhainn Dearg for the forthcoming BBC series charting the history of whisky and tobacco in Scotland, having also filmed at the historical remains of Kennetpans Distillery near Alloa.
And so into the warehouse. There are no butts or puncheon casks at Abhainn Dearg since their large size and volume makes transporting and filling them with spirit a mighty hard task. Instead, there is a mix of hogsheads and barrels in addition to quarter casks and ‘tubs’ reserved for enthusiasts looking to buy their own spirit. We were keen to see how one of our favourites, cask #4 an 18-month old fresh Olorosso hogshead, is maturing. As expected the warm summer has aided maturation enormously and since we last sampled this cask during our April blog those big brash aromas of sherry, pine needles and polish have mellowed, softened and balanced stunningly well. Next year’s trips will be a total pleasure!
Makro had recently filled spirit into Amontillado Sherry hogsheads. Amontillado sits between the light Fino sherry and dark Olorosso in the sherry spectrum. The initial notes of fudge, butter, pineapple, pine needles with whisper of smoke on the nose are knocked aside with a big fiery palate; boasting cocoa, Galápagos Island ground coffee beans (that’s quite specific! – ed) and the classic sweet barley sugars are most promising.
Spirit of Lewis Cask Strength, Abhainn Dearg Special Edition, Abhainn Dearg 3 Year Old miniature & Abhainn Dearg 3 Year Old Cask Strength miniature are available to order from The Whisky Barrel. These are likely to be on the only releases until the whisky reaches 10 Years Old in 2018 so don’t delay.
Photographs © 2012 @scottjessuk