Thursday, 1 October 2020

A forward-thinking whisky: Nc'nean

For those of you who've been following this blog for a while, you may remember reading a post that I wrote last year about the launch of a new distillery in Scotland called Nc'nean (I wrote about this experience and where their unusual name came from, so I won't cover that again in this piece). They launched with the release of a set of unique "botanical spirits", which were designed to act as a precursor the whisky that they were hoping to release this year (you can still buy a bottle of their botanical spirit on Master of Malt for £24.95). Well, fast-forward a year (and the less said about that year the better...) and it is time for Nc'nean to unveil their whisky to the world. It seemed somehow appropriate that whereas the botanical spirit was launched at a glitzy event in 2019 at a private members' club, the whisky was launched in 2020 in a virtual tasting over Zoom!

It says a lot about Nc'nean and their CEO, Annabel Thomas, that despite all of the difficulties that 2020 has thrown at them - they have been able to achieve so much. They opted to sell the first 10 bottles of their whisky through an auction to raise money for charities - knowing that first bottles are often valued highly amongst collectors. They weren't wrong. The 10 bottles raised a record £92,000 for charity, with the first bottle going for an incredible £40,000 (you can read more about this story here)!

If that were not impressive enough, Nc'Nean has continued its voyage of sustainability - which is a concept at the very centre of its brand. Annabel told us with great pride that they had been successful in working with a supplier to bottle their whisky in 100% recycled, clear glass which requires no virgin sand in its production and reduces its carbon footprint by 40%. Furthermore, Annabel said that Nc'nean are considering a programme whereby people can return their used bottles to the distillery for refilling. Very impressive stuff! In addition, Nc'nean have made great progress on their aims for zero waste to landfill (in 2019 they achieved 99.9% waste being recycled) and efforts to solely power their distillery from sustainable energy sources. You can read more about their sustainability initiatives here.  

The Whisky!

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "this is all well and good, but what about the whisky? What was that like?!". 

Well, to launch their whisky, Annabel was joined on the call by Dave Broom - a noted whisky expert who writes at The Whisky Manual, and took us through the tasting. We started off by sampling the whisky - which sits a pretty gold in the glass - neat. On the nose it is quite heady with some spicy notes at first that are gradually replaced with softer fruity notes. There are some slightly sweet vanilla flavours there too. On the palate the first thing I wrote down was "beautiful!"; it was really open and warm, with slightly sweet and fruity with stone fruit notes (peach and apricot) which is then subsumed with a bit of warmth and spice. The really impressive thing with this whisky was just how complex and developed it was for a whisky only three years old.

You can buy Nc'nean's whisky from £47.95 (without the option of buying a cardboard container - which they offer to reduce packaging) from their website. Their first batches sold out very quickly, but they are currently taking orders for their October bottling - I'm certainly going to be placing an order!  

The "Whisky Six"

Whisky Six Nc'nean

Photo taken from the Nc'nean website
After this Dave took us through an alternative way of enjoying the whisky - a "Whisky Six", which is a highball serve that is used for single malt whiskies. According to Dave this was a very popular way of enjoying whisky as a long drink from the nineteenth century that has latterly fallen out of fashion, but is a method that Dave very much enjoys. The recipe that Dave and Nc'nean suggest is as follows:
  • Two parts Nc'nean whisky (50ml)
  • Four parts soda water (100ml)
  • Chunks of ice
  • Garnish of mint  

The result is a nice and refreshing drink, which is complemented by the mint. The aim of the drink isn't to mask or hide the whisky, but to enhance it. Annabel spoke about wanting to showcase her whisky in this way in order to make sure that a wide and diverse group can appreciate the drink. This is another area that is at the heart of the Nc'nean project, embracing gender diversity - Annabel leads a team of 10, seven of whom are female; something which is not typical of your average whisky distillery!

I would like to thank Annabel and the team at Full Fat for inviting me to attend this virtual launch - it was a great experience! I shall be following carefully Nc'nean's development over the next few years. To my mind anything that promotes a more sustainable and more inclusive world can only be a good thing - if that thing is also a whisky then even better! 

Disclaimer: I was sent the whisky as a sample. The opinions contained in this article are nevertheless my own.  


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