Wednesday 28 October 2015

Kininvie 23 year old Australian Launch party (Tasted #221 - 224) (#101drams)

We have a soft spot for William Grant & Sons here at TimeforWhisky - not only for the great range of whiskies they put out, nor because of the fantastic events they run, but because of the truly awesome people who make up the brand. So it goes without saying that when an invite arrived for the launch of the 23 year old in Sydney, at a time I was actually going to be in Sydney, I was going to be there without hesitation. The fact that it would be the first whisky event that both Hendy and I would cover jointly just made it even better.

Kininvie has been a distillery of personal interest to me for years. Back in 2009 when I was starting my whisky adventures, dad and I toured Glenfiddich, and learnt about Kininvie, which began distilling in 1990 and, at the time of our tour, was only available as a single malt to a select few (distillery workers, or those who paid a pretty penny for a bottle on the secondhand market). When I started my #101drams charitable challenge, a Kininvie had to feature.

Fast forward a few years to 2013, and Kininvie was released as a commercial (albeit still reclusive) single malt. Available as a 17 year old in the travel retail market, and a 23yo (in very limited quantities) in Taiwan, word quietly spread that Glenfiddich and Balvenie had a sibling, which neatly nestled in between the two both physically and in terms of flavour profile.

(I have to be honest here - despite being on my #101drams list, I actually tried Kininvie 23 year old Batch 001 exactly 12 months ago, thanks to the very generous folks at Whisky+Alement in Melbourne, but hadn't yet added the tasting notes to the blog. I've included them at the bottom of this post, along with the Batch #003, which is the release recently launched in Australia.)

The theme of "reclusiveness" was to feature heavily throughout the night, starting with the choice of venue - Magazin. The brainchild of the team behind Grasshopper (Sydney's first Small Bar), the underground private members' bar, located on Darlinghurst's William St, is known (or rather not known) as one of Sydney's most reclusive and exclusive bars. Just don't call it a speakeasy (truly, think classy, futuristic underground cocktail den with a smart layout and quality, modern finishings).

Upon entering the bar, we were handed a delicious Old Fashioned (made with Monkey Shoulder and chocolate bitters), and were warmly greeted by Laura and Mark of William Grant & Sons, who were hosting the night. A brief glance at the menu revealed a few goodies in store - including two single cask Kininvies.

After greetings and our fantastically-chocolatey cocktails, it was time for Laura to introduce the crowd to Kininvie, which William Grant & Sons designed to give grassy and floral notes, to provide a malt whose profile nestled neatly between the fruitier Glenfiddich, and the richer, more honied Balvenie. Laura also explained that Kinivie (whose stillhouse is also physically nestled in between Glenfiddich and Balvenie) means "end of the field", and was a personal favourite of Janet Sheed Roberts, granddaughter of William Grant, and who lived to the ripe old age of 110.

The Kininvie stillhouse - taken during Steph's and my visit to Balvenie in July this year.

Before long, drams were handed out (along with matched canapés) and it was time to start tasting...

Kininvie 1999 single cask American Oak (55.7% ABV, 15 to 16yo, Speyside, Scotland, not commercially available)
Nose: Light and floral, with a slight earthiness.
Palate: Citrusy-zing initially, with some contrasting meaty BBQ notes. Sweet. A drop of water toned down the sweetness and amped up the earthy notes.
Finish: Long, meaty and earthy
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. It's pretty special to be able to try a Kininvie, let alone a single cask Kininvie. Off to a good start!

Kininvie 1990 single cask European Oak ex-sherry cask (59% ABV, 24 to 25yo, Speyside, Scotland, not commercially available)
Nose: A lovely sherry bomb. Rich red berries and Christmas cake, with some hints of furniture polish and the same earthiness from the 1999.
Palate: Citrusy still, but more oranges and tangerines this time. Still very earthy. Cherries and some cocoa. Coffee and more Christmas cake.
Finish: Medium to long with Brazil nuts and cocoa.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Interestingly, this reminded me a LOT of a very heavily sherried cask-strength 11yo Yamazaki single cask I tried recently.

After a short break and a dram of the 17yo Kininvie, it was time to try the whisky we were all at Magazin to celebrate - the Kininvie 23 year old Batch #003.

Kininvie 23 Batch #003 1991 (42.6% ABV, 23yo, Speyside, Scotland, $210AUD / £120)
Nose: Sweet toffee apples and some vanilla. This has definitely had a fair bit of American Oak maturation.
Palate: Smooth. Sweet toffee apples dipped in rich caramel. A hint of oak.
Finish: Short to medium, with notes of toffee apples to the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A lovely dessert whisky.

So how did the Batch #001, tasted 12 months ago to the day, compare?

Kininvie 23 Batch #001 1990 (42.6% ABV, 23yo, Cask #4107, Speyside, Scotland, no longer available) - tasted in October 2014.
Colour: Orange gold
Nose: Slightly more Glenfiddich than Balvenie, with citrus, pears, orange peels, boiled lollies, and after time, stronger apples and pears.
Palate: Orange marmalade on burnt toast. Spicy (paprika). Nutty.
Finish: Long, drying and tannic. Spice, pepper and tabasco.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

With the tasting officially over, it was time to catch up with the many Sydney whisky folk I used to see regularly, but now hadn't seen in over a year. A really great night spent enjoying a rare and little-known whisky in the perfect setting.

Kininvie 23 Batch #003 is available in Australia at specialist bottle shops, priced at $210AUD (350mL bottle). If you miss out on getting a bottle in Australia, we notice Master of Malt still have both Batch #002 and #003 releases available (the latter by the dram too), as well as the older Hazelwood 105.

Martin (words) & Hendy (photos).

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