Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review - Kininvie Special Release #1 'The First Drops'

The First Drops is the oldest ever expression from the Speyside distillery of Kininvie to be released. It is also the first bottling in the new Special Release series and was launched at a low key event in London back in October.  The whisky is constructed of just three casks from Kininvie's first ever day of production on June 25 1990.  These have been selected by Brian Kinsman, the Malt Master at William Grant & Sons (the owners of Kininvie), and each cask has been bottled at 25 years of age for one of three markets - Europe, Taiwan and the UK. They will all be available through specialist retailers, with the UK bottling the first to market.

Kininvie is a relatively new distillery and was founded by William Grant & Sons in 1990. It was built to take some of the production strain off its sister distilleries of Balvenie and Glenfiddich. The majority of the whisky produced there is used in the highly popular Grant's blended range and Monkey Shoulder. Kininvie is located on the same site as Balvenie and Glenfiddich in the Speyside town of Dufftown, and sits between the two.  The current production is about three million litres per year, but it has capacity for up to 4.8 million litres.

The First Drops cask selected for the UK market, which is the one sampled below, has yielded just 550 bottles. It is an ex-bourbon cask and is bottled at the natural cask strength of 61.4% ABV.  The cask was the 21st cask to be filled on Kininvie's first day of production.  The price is £400 per bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has a lovely mix of refreshing aromas - green apples, vanilla, honey and candied lemon.  The vanilla and honey in particular seem to increase with time in the glass.  There are underlying aromas of malty cereals and hints of cinnamon, white chocolate and ginger.

On the palate, the high alcohol level gives the whisky an immediate heat and vibrancy.  The flavour profile is led by expressive notes of honey and vanilla pods, which combine and develop to have a feel of maple syrup and candyfloss.  As it mixes with the saliva, further notes of over ripe fruit begin to develop - think of mango and banana especially.  Underneath are the malty cereal, cinnamon spice and lemon zest elements from the nose, plus a hint of something earthy and grassy.

For us, the whisky needs the addition of some water.  A few drops knock the alcohol level back and allows other characteristics to shine through.  The whisky feels creamy in the mouth and the honey and vanilla notes remain strong.  However, the over ripe fruits and the background notes become more prominent.  This is especially true of the maltiness.  A lovely floral note reminiscent of honeysuckle develops, as does a distinct dried grass note and hints of cocoa powder and cloves.

What's the verdict?
This whisky feels like a real treat.  To taste something that was distilled on the very first day of a distillery's production life is rare.  This is especially true of a distillery such as Kininvie, which does not have many bottlings out on the market at this time.  It makes this a good collectors item.

The First Drops has a clean, fresh and elegant nature.  Like many high strength ABV whiskies it undoubtedly benefits from the addition of water and this softens it to bring out the full depth and complexity of the spirit.  This enhances the more subtle floral, fruity and grassy notes.  We recommend adding water for all but the most stubborn of whisky drinkers.


Anonymous said...

Cask 21 is bottled at strength of 63,2 % ABV (https://www.whiskybase.com/whisky/73854/kininvie-1990). At 61.4% ABV bottled is Cask 20 for the european continent.

Matt C said...

Dear Anonymous - thanks for your comment. However, it is incorrect - Cask 21 (the UK release) is 61.4% ABV as stated in the blog post. We are looking at the bottle right now, so unfortunately we have to say that WhiskyBase is incorrect. Sadly, we cannot attach a photo to comments here otherwise I would do as evidence.
Thanks - Matt @ WFE

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my name is Wolfgang F. Rothe. And a bottle of cask 21 stands in front of me: bottled with 63,2 % ABV. Please take a look on the photo. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, posting the photo was not possible. Please take a look on the photos on whiskybase.

Bottled with 61,4 % ABV is cask 20.

Matt C said...

Hi Wolfgang - well, this is very odd. I have now included our photo at the bottom of the blog post. This corresponds to the information also publish in the UK press release. You can see that it is marked at Cask 21 and at 61.4% ABV ....

Thanks, Matt @ WFE

Anonymous said...

Really strange! I'll try to ask William Grant & Sons Ltd. Regards, Wolfgang

Anonymous said...

Please have a look on this: https://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/kininvie/kininvie-25-year-old-1990-cask-21-the-first-drops-special-release-1-whisky/