Review – Kininvie 23 years old (Batch 3)
This whisky is the latest release from the little known Speyside single malt distillery of Kininvie (pronounced kin-inn-vee). The first whisky using the Kininvie name was released in 2013 and this batch will arrive in selected markets in limited numbers shortly. This 23 years old expression sits alongside a 17 years old bottling, which is exclusive for the travel retail sector. Kininvie whisky has quickly gained a cult following due to its rarity and we were intrigued to try the Batch 3 at a recent event, as we had never sampled anything from the distillery before.
Part of the reason that Kininvie is rare is that it 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 Kininvie still house|
The distillery is unlike most others in Scotland as it consists of just a still house, which is home to nine stills (three wash and six spirit). The milling, mashing and fermentation parts of the production process take place in a dedicated section within Balvenie. The current production is about three million litres per year, but it has capacity for up to 4.8 million litres.
The Kininvie 23 years old Batch 3 has been matured in ex-bourbon casks for the majority of its life before being finished in ex-sherry casks for the final six months. The liquid in this batch was distilled in 1991 and it has been bottled at 42.6% ABV. The exact number of bottles has yet to be revealed.
Our tasting notes
The colour is pale lemon yellow and the nose is light, delicate and grassy. There is an immediate fresh and clean quality to it with subtle aromas of honey, vanilla and lemon (think of lemon throat lozenges). There is an underlying aroma of malted barley that combines with the fresh grassy note, along with a hint of damp earth.
On the palate this whisky has a light yet vibrant and zesty feel initially. It feels very lively for a whisky of 20+ years of age and has a lovely combination of subtle flavours – there are gentle sweet notes of vanilla, honey, icing sugar and white chocolate. With time distinct malty and zesty characteristics develop strongly. The citrus is more reminiscent of orange now, rather than the lemon on the nose. There are late notes of warming wood spice (especially cinnamon) and earthy ginger which add depth, along with a hint of something floral (think of honeysuckle or jasmine).
The finish is quite short, fresh and zesty. The sweeter elements fade quickly to leave the expressive citrus zest to do battle with the lingering malty cereal and wood spice notes.
What’s the verdict?
We did not know what to expect from this as Kininvie is a distillery that we have never sampled anything from before. We were surprised that it was so light and delicate, especially when considering its age, but it is a very pleasant whisky indeed. It has clearly had some very sympathetic casking that has complimented rather than overwhelm.
This Batch 3 reminds us of a good example of Lowland whisky in terms of style, or its sibling the Balvenie 12 years old Single Barrel. A very pleasing whisky and one that allows us to tick another distillery off our ever expanding list.