Nestled in a farmstead in the Perthshire countryside is a very compact but very progressive distillery. If innovation is the key to survival then Strathearn is on a good course. When you meet the founder, Tony Reeman-Clark, his enthusiasm is infectious. From these few square meters he and his team have all sorts of ideas for taking the business, and this sector, forward.
Indeed when asked where the inspiration for Strathearn came from there may have been somebody looking down from above.
“It was at the whisky fringe- around half way through one of my friends said wouldn’t it be fun to have your own distillery. On a lovely summer day, with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows- one of those silly conversations which you then sketch out in the pub and then the following day I developed it into a project and it went from there.”
Strathearn has a variety of products that they make here in Perthshire. The gin range comes in a number of expressions including citrus, heather rose, honey berry and oaked wood finishes as well as traditional Juniper. These are made in time honoured fashion with baskets being used to carry the botanicals and extraction of flavours occurring in the vapour phase. There are also different strengths available with the traditional 40% abv sitting alongside a distiller’s strength of 60.5%abv.
As well as the gin range there are a couple of innovative spirits available.
The Uisge Beatha range is an early stage spirit that is matured quickly in very small barrels. Through a mixture of the distilling processes used and the smaller cask size the spirit provides a very acceptable final product in a short space of time. The use of Chestnut, Cherry, Mulberry and Acacia woods all feature in the range and while the spirit in these products is young the wood finishes provide some really exciting and interesting results. There are also a couple of peated examples in the range which again add to the interest.
Also present is a couple of cider brandies. This product was formed in partnership with Thistly Cross Cider company who are based in Dunbar. There are both Amercian Oak- giving distinctive, coconut and vanilla flavours- as well as the French oak variety where there is a more dried fruit driven character. These products are bottled a little higher than standard strength at 47.5% abv.
As Tony explained:
“I’ve always had a liking for flavours and there is definitely a sensible and not so sensible side to me. I like the idea of being the chef one who turns out food to a very high standard but is always looking for the next thing to do.”
On the production side Strathearn utilise every single square foot the distillery has. The grain comes in pre-milled to Strathearn’s specification and is mixed with water in a half tonne mash tun. From the mash tun around 1600L of fermentable wort is produced. Yeast is mixed and pitched directly into the wash back and fermentation occurs over around four days. There is then a 1000l wash still and further 500l,100l and 50l spirit stills.
Everything at Strathearn is single batch with blending at a minimum.
The first whisky production has just reached it’s third birthday and Strathearn made the decision to auction these first bottles with a fair amount of success. Every one of the first hundred bottles sold for over £300 each with bottle one hitting a price in excess of £4000.
This method of selling again marks Strathearn out as one of the more innovative producers in the sector. This aligned with the 1784 Club and 2016 Cask Club have again added a nice incentive to get involved with the products and progress of the company. The 2016 Cask Club is in fact sold out. Obviously this helps the company bridge the gap while the Scotch products are maturing.
At Strathearn things are fun, innovative and exciting, they use all the opportunities, including sending bloggers to clean the mash tun. We’ll follow their progress with great interest.