Up until a few years ago, not many people had known of the existence of a sixth distillery within the William Grant & Sons stable. It would be appropriate to say that this sixth distillery was overshadowed by its more illustrious (and unfortunate) counterparts.
Glenfiddich and Balvenie are world renown brands with impressive growth and a keen fanbase. Girvan is a powerhouse which supplied grain whisky for the various blends within the Grant’s range. Ladyburn was a long-dead part of the Girvan complex and produced some rather interesting whiskies. Ailsa Bay is the company’s mega distillery which has the ability to produce a variety of spirits styles which are necessary for the Grant’s blends.
And then there is Kininvie, the smallest of the lot. When you consider that its capacity of 4.8 million litres makes it a larger distillery than the likes of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Glenfarclas, it can be said that the use of the word “smallest” is relative to the other distilleries within the company.
Kininvie was built in 1990 initially with the sole purpose to provide bulk whisky for inclusion within the various blends of the Grant’s range. This was due to the parent company’s view that the whiskies produced at Glenfiddich and Balvenie were better designated for use as single malts and their relative popularity does lend credence to this decision.
The distillery fulfilled its purpose as a workhorse distillery from 1990 until 2006, when William Grant & Sons decided to provide consumers with a taste of the distillery’s produce.
This came by way of a 15 Years Old expression which was released under the name Hazelwood and it was released to celebrate the 105th birthday of Janet Sheed-Roberts, the last surviving grand-daughter of William Grant.
A 17 Years Old expression by the name of Hazelwood Reserve was then released in 2008 to celebrate Janet’s 107th birthday and it was exclusively available at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, but it was only in 2013 that the name Kininvie was used on the packaging.
In 2013, a 23 Years Old expression under the Kininvie name was released in Taiwan and this was the first of 3 batches to be released. This was then followed by a 17 Years Old expression in 2014 as well as Batch 2 of the 23 Years Old expression.
In 2015, the 3rd and final batch of the 23 Years Old expression was released and it was then followed by a signature 23 Year Old bottling of Kininvie. Three 25 Years Old single casks of Kininvie were also made available in November 2015 and were known as the First Drops.
In terms of equipment, the distillery has a rather unusual setup. While Kininvie distillery is technically composed of a stillhouse tucked away neatly behind Balvenie, the stillhouse is home to 3 wash stills and 6 spirit stills.
The rest of the equipment is located within the Balvenie complex and is composed of a stainless steel full lauter mash tun located next to Balvenie’s, and 10 washbacks made of Douglas fir with a fermentation time of 65 hours (and also located next to Balvenie’s washbacks).
The distillery will be conducting 18 mashes per week in 2016 and wil produce approximately 2.6 million litres of spirit of annum, most of which will be used for blending purposes while the rest is bottled as Kininvie.
This production figure is well below the distillery’s capacity of 4.8 million litres of spirit per annum as it has been supplanted by Ailsa Bay with regard to producing spirit for the various Grant’s blends.
However, it is an important component within the Monkey Shoulder blended malt (alongside Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and this is where the majority of the distillery’s production will end up.
This week’s review focuses on Batch 1 of the Kininvie 17 Years Old expression, which was distilled in 1996 and bottled at 42.6% abv for release in 2014 as a 350ml duty free exclusive.
So, let’s jump right into the review!
Kininvie 1996 17 Years Old (Batch 1, 42.6% abv)
Colour: Golden syrup
Nose: Initial entry presents some floral hints as well as a touch of honeysuckle, followed by hints of grass and citrus fruits such as lemon and orange. There certainly is a sweetness to this dram and the malty notes are definitely present within the mix. With time, caramel and a touch of black pepper emerge to add a touch of complexity and depth. (21/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents chrysanthamum tea notes along with chewy malt, honeysuckle and hints of the lemon and orange notes from the nose, although they’re not as pronounced on the palate. A touch of oak and cinnamon coupled with some barley sugar and just a tiny hint of black pepper and grass. (20/25)
Finish: Medium on the finish, with more of the chrysanthamum tea and honeysuckle notes being chased by the oak and cinnamon, although not to the point of being overly drying or spicy. (18/25)
Balance: A rather well-balanced dram which exhibits the floral and malty distillery style while allowing for some flashes of complexity and intrigue to filter through. Not the most complex or interesting dram out there, but definitely something to try at least once if given the chance. (20/25)
I found this to be a rather interesting dram and it is quite pleasant and unobtrusive, but in some ways it seems to lack a consistent level of complexity and this aspect chooses to manifest itself in flashes throughout the entire nosing and tasting experience.
That being said, I would classify this to be a fairly good dram which is enjoyable in its own right and it just may work well as an aperitif or when paired with a dessert which shares a similar floral and sweet profile.
This expression of Kininvie is sold out due to its rather limited nature, which makes is a collectible. If you do see it available at a bar by the dram, please do try it though as it would provide an interesting insight into one of the lesser known distilleries within the Speyside region.
Until the next post, have a wonderful week ahead.
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