The drive up from Edinburgh is spectacular. Hugging the coast north of Inverness and Dornoch the quality of the light in the north of Scotland late in the year is soft and subtle. The route takes you past some of the venerable names of the Scotch industry- Glen Ord, Teaninich, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Balblair, Clynelish and Pulteney all pop up on the drive – oh to have a spare week and get a few more stops in.
The destination today is further north than all of them – the northernmost distillery on the UK mainland – Wolfburn.
Some of the views on the way to and close by Wolfburn
The site itself is close to the original distillery which ran production in the early 1800’s. The reasons for its closure are not absolutely clear but its re-invention as a modern site commenced around 2012 with first spirit being produced the following year and its first bottles being available from 2016 onwards. The current operation actually uses minimally treated water from the Wolf Burn close by the back of the distillery.
The site itself is generous enough with three warehouses alongside the distillery – bottling is also done here.
Concerto malted barley is the grain of choice with around 1100kg of cereal being used per mash. The mashing regime uses 64.5degC water in a semi-lauter mash tun. 80degC sparge water is then used at the end of the mash to rinse through final sugars as well as creating first waters for the next mash. Transfer of around 5000l of wash is provided to the FVs with a single yeast strain added. Fermentation then takes in the region of 72-96hrs with an abv of around 8-9% being reached.
What is very apparent is a very light bright style at this stage. Upon opening the FV’s there are distinct floral notes that are mixed in with a warming caramel and malt aromas.
For a few weeks of the year there are production runs with peated barley as Wolfburn look to diversify their product range.
The Forsyths stills are next with a 5500l wash and 3800l spirit still and the wash being preheated before entry to the stills. The distilling process itself takes around 5 hours per charge.
From the spirit receiver the liquid is then pumped to cask filling stations in the warehouse. There is an impressive array of barrels on show with Olorosso sherry butts, first fill ex-bourbon, and quarter casks all in evidence. There are even some casks from Islay which can help to provide a subtle peatiness in some of the range. Racking is carried out at around 65%abv.
The nose in the bond is stunning. The aromas that were present in the washbacks area are still here but you can sense the development of more complex and subtle flavours.
Inside the Wolfburn bond
Wolfburn produces around 110,000 LPA- enough for around 250,000 bottles per annum at usual strength and currently markets three main product lines- The Northland, Aurora and the latest addition- a more peat based whisky- the Morven. There are also some specials that are run through the Kylver Series when there’s something expecetional in a cask. Other specials have included batch 128- a limited run of 6000 bottles from a first fill US bourbon cask.
It is testament to Shane and his lean team at Wolfburn that awards are already forthcoming and with the care and diligence that is clearly in place Wolfburn can look forward to a highly successful future.