Thanks to /u/UncleBaldric for pouring these samples for me.
Wolfburn is a brand new distillery, and one that I have never had. It’s no real surprise. It takes quite a lot of capital to start up a distillery. Add to that the first couple releases from anywhere are typically sold as collectables that are not reviewed. Again, we all understand that it takes a while to build up to a released whisky. These 12 year old constant single malts don’t just fall off the tree.
Wolfburn is not named after a particularly angry form of venereal disease. In Scots, the word for stream or small river is “Burn”. Which definitely changes how you now watch reruns of That 70’s show. So back in 1821, a man named William Smith founded a distillery with the name Wolfburn. And they made a large amount of whisky. At some point they closed down, with reasons lost to time. The Smith family decided to go forth and multiply instead of owning it, and it closed so long ago that we can’t have whiskies from there anymore.
The new whisky is a short walk along the burn from the original settlement. They double distil in small stills, always have natural colour, and never chill filtered. Also, each bottle is hand filled, which is pretty cool.
So Wolfburn (the new one) came back online on the 25th of January 2013. It took a lot of work.
But this isn’t me talking about a tour. While I’d love to visit, I’m here to check in on how they are doing. Because they have some releases out. A handful even.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Wolfburn First General Release is up first because… Well, I mean, it’s called First General Release. I should probably start with it.
So this is a three-year-old single malt. They used ex-Islay Barrels as quarter casks, probably to give it a push towards tasting good after only three years. Also, it seems this was released in Europe only, as I only read about this on websites that are in German.
Granted that could be my own Google habits coming back to haunt me. Remember to use Incognito mode folks!
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Colour: 7.5Y 9/3
Nose: Pear funk/overripe pear, grass, smoke, cherrywood
Initial young funk. Smells like vegetation with some stone fruit sweetness to it. This is young. Very young.
That said, there are some smoke and cherrywood aspects to it. It just needs some time. Lots of time. It’s still young.
Taste: Grass, anise, honeydew, golden syrup
On the good side? It’s not alcohol/young burn going on. There is more of a young spirit that’s on its way type of vibe.
The raw sugar, the spice, and the grass show some of where it’s going. That said, this is pretty simple, and rough edges.
Finish: Pear, white pepper, overripe apple
The finish is where you get more of that youth from the nose. It’s a ton of alcohol heat and peat, vegetal aspects, and sweets.
So it’s on its way, but not there yet.
Conclusion: So let’s try to stay positive here: Someday, if this is what Wolfburn is all about, we’re going to get a funky grass forward Highland malt. And that’s different from what we have.
The blenders/distillers/wizards who made this put it in the right casks. Ex-Islay quarter casks? Yeah, that’s giving me something more in a shorter amount of time. It did give us some anise, some smoke, and some interesting things for those who bought it.
That all said, we get to what this is. It’s stone fruits, grass, some funk, and no depth. It’s rough on the finish. The nose isn’t welcoming. I didn’t hate this, and certainly could finish it, but I’d probably give this distillery more time before grabbing another release… well, a different one than this. I think it’s going in the right direction.
If you enjoy funk or need to see where Wolfburn is going before they get there, pick this up. Otherwise, grab something else.
Wolfburn Kylver Series 0001 is part of the Kylver Series. Where would you be without these reviews, eh?
The Kylver Series is named after a burial stone that features one of the earliest examples of the runic alphabet. It reflects the history of Caithness that surrounds the distillery. The series itself is made up of casks that are noted as doing things differently. If they are good enough to be set aside and continue to be, eventually they’ll be part of the Kylver series. From the amount of 0001, I’d guess there were a few outliers used.
This is an interesting idea, because typically these types of casks are ones that are sold off to independent bottlers, or collected for random special editions (with other distilleries). Will this mean that Wolfburn controls more and more of the casks, and releases them itself? Will that mean more or fewer people try them?
We’ll have to see. For now, let’s see what the first release tastes like, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Cask Type: Ex-Bourbon cask
Number of bottles: 1,200
Age: 3 years
Colour: 7.5Y 9/3
Nose: Pear, farmyard, smoke, clay
So this is going in a new direction, somewhat, then the last one. There’s still some aspects of smoke and earth, as well as that pear and funk.
That said, without the smaller casks or Islay influence, we can pick out what the whisky is doing. Or the people making the whisky want us to think.
So we have funk, earth, and maybe smoke. That could be the cask influences. It’s nice, though still quite faint and youthful.
Taste: Pear, white chocolate, grass
Pear is becoming a pretty standard flavour here. White chocolate is the main star here. Yeah, grass and pear are things that come from some young malts. But that white chocolate? I can see why some casks were put aside due to it.
Finish: Mango, hay, cinnamon, burnt sugar
Fruity, more farmyard/grass combos going on. It’s a bit rough again, with heat from the cinnamon/burnt sugar being rougher again.
Conclusion: I’ve had much worse, much older drams. I can certainly get the idea that Wolfburn is going on here. That said, it’s simple on the taste, the nose is light, and the finish rough aspects are a bit of a turnoff.
I do think it’s a good first step. It’s the same age as the above and shows the improvement. It’s giving me an idea of what they want to do. I’m certainly excited to try more. These are now in the rearview mirror and hope that they build on them.
Scotch review #1001-2, Highland review #168-9, Whisky Network review #1569-70