We have a keen focus on those distilleries doing things a different way; through innovation and challenging the norms. We start 2021 with a feature on a younger distillery whose focus is all about creating the best possible whisky, with the smallest possible footprint.
Nc’nean (“Nc-nee-an”) is a young independent distillery based on the West-coast of Scotland. Their name is an abbreviation of Neachneohain (“Nish-Neo-Hayne”), the Gaelic goddess known as the queen of spirits who was a huntress, a fierce protector of nature and was never afraid to walk her own path. These qualities, along with creativity and curiosity, are embodied by Annabel, who left a job in London back in 2013 and then spent 4-years raising funds to start this distillery. Her aim was to change the way the world thinks about Scottish whisky, creating experimental, light and delicious spirits and pioneering sustainable production to exist in harmony with planet earth.
At Nc’nean, they source 100% organic barley from 10 Scottish farms that not only produces a richer grain, which contributes to their signature flavor profile, but also secures two square meters of biodiverse farmland. They are proud to boast 100% renewable energy, with stills powered by an on-site biomass boiler and a carbon footprint just 10% that of an equivalent sized fossil fuel powered distillery. 99.9% of all their waste is diverted from landfill, with much of it being used on the distillery estate farm as cattle feed and fertiliser for the fields. They use rain water in their condensers that is then recycled to reduce water consumption, avoiding electrical energy to cool the water, not using any chemicals to treat it and using only natural enzymes for all cleaning.
The Bottle - Nc’nean is the first single malt distillery to use 100% clear recycled glass bottles for their whisky, which results in a slight green hue and some minor imperfections, like bubbles, in each bottle. It also means a 40% reduction in their carbon footprint compared to traditional clear flint glass, and means they are not harvesting more natural resources. Also, they use bio-degradable corks and seals and their gift box (which is optional) is made from 90% recycled cardboard and is 100% recyclable.
Nc’nean aims to always create an approachable and fruity whisky and this is mostly achieved during the fermentation process. The use of two yeast varieties gives them a perfect mixture of alcohol yield and fruity esters, which produces flavours of apple, pear, pineapple, and stone fruits. They also aim for high levels of fatty acid esters that produce creamy flavours and longer chain esters that give Nc’nean its rich texture.
Following the distillation process, two different casks are filled with their new make spirit at a strength of 63.3%. They use 230-litre STR (shaved, toasted and recharred) ex-Red Wine casks from “Jose y Miguel Martin” in Spain that typically produce flavours like vanilla, coconut and cedar. They also use 200-litre Bourbon casks sourced from multiple distilleries (commonly from Buffalo Trace, JD & Early Times distilleries), which develop flavours of spice, toffee and darker fruits. The blending of these two casks for the final product is 65% STR cask & 35% Bourbon Cask. The spirit goes through normal particle filtering and is reduced in strength (proofed down) to 46% using distillery spring water.
A bright and fruity whisky with incredible impact and texture. Flavours of Batch 01 include lemon posset, peach, apricot and Spiced Rye Bread. Nc’nean believe their whisky should be enjoyed however you want, and that’s why they created a whisky that holds up well to mixing. Their signature serve, a “Whisky Six,” uses soda water and is preferably enjoyed at 6pm, to ease the transition from day to evening.
How To Make:
Two parts whisky
Four parts soda water
Ice and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint
The soda enhances Nc’nean’s fruity and creamy qualities in a clean and approachable serve, with the mint adding fresh contrast to both the aroma and look of the drink.
Bottle #1 of their inaugural release sold for £41,004, a world record that broke the previous record 4x over (Teeling - £10,000 - Oct, 2018). Bottles #2 to #10 each sold for between £4,500 and £5,000, giving a combined total of over £92,500. This money was donated to charity, being split evenly between 5 charities close to Nc’nean that support the local community, the environment and the hospitality industry.
Their Botanical Spirit is experimental and boundary pushing, screaming innovation but with echoes of Scotch whisky’s past. The same new make organic barley spirit that is matured in casks to produce their whisky is the base; however, instead of maturing in casks, they combine it with 10 organic botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice, chamomile, grapefruit, wild bog myrtle, thyme, sorrel & heather) and then it is redistilled at the “Beinn An Tuirc” distillery in Campbeltown. Beinn An Tuirc are known for producing Kintyre Gin, and are famous for their fully renewable energy, hydro-electric powered still and tree replanting projects.
This Botanical spirit has flavours of peppery spice, bread barley, feint herbal aromas and a touch of dark fruits. It can be enjoyed in a variety of long drinks and cocktails and is a fantastic alternative to those of you who like gin. Why not try a Nc’nean Tonic.
How to make:
50ml Botanical Spirit
100ml tonic water
Dash of Angostura Bitters (not essential but a delightful addition)
Add to a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a Grapefruit wedge
If you would like to learn more about Nc’nean, or to get in contact with their very friendly and talented team about tours, tastings and casks ownership, then you can find them at www.ncnean.com