I got the chance to try re-opened distillery Glenglassaugh’s new products at K&L’s first Wednesday tasting at the Redwood City location, as well as the 26 year-old bottling, from casks filled before the distillery closed in 1986. This was my first taste of a new-make spirit, which is the clear alcohol that flows from the stills when malt whisky is made. Had this sat in oak barrels in Scotland for three years, it could have been labeled as single-malt Scotch whisky. Instead, it has to be categorized as a lowly “spirit drink” or “new-make spirit.” Young spirits like this give a fascinating glimpse into the process of maturation. By comparing a whisky fresh from the stills to one that has aged for several years, it becomes abundantly clear how many flavor compounds are derived from the wood. New-make spirits also give a hint of where the distillery is headed, and show promise that may (or may not) come to delicious fruition in a decade or so.
First, the Clearac new-make spirit, bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). This was a 1/4 oz pour, so I didn’t have an opportunity to try adding some water.
Nose: Fragile fruit, with a wave of vodka-like industrial glue. Some nice fresh raspberry, mint leaves, rose water. Floral.
Palate: High burn at 100 proof, but the raspberry continues with a round sweet white rum character.
Finish: Short, with more vodka flavor and a ghost of green apple.
Overall: A lot of vodka style, but with interesting fresh fruity notes, and nice florals. Some honeysuckle? Very light, despite the high burn. A pleasant new make, rather like an artisan vodka. Frankly, if it weren’t so expensive, I’d rather put this in a martini!
Next, the Fledgling XB. Also bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV) after maturation for just one year in ex-bourbon casks (hence the ‘XB’ moniker).
Nose: Super light caramel or butterscotch, with the faintest suggestion of wood chips. Still some of the vodka graininess, but less so than the new-make.
Palate: Moderate burn, with some vanilla and warming sweet baked goods.
Finish: Nice and of medium length – more bakery notes, specifically sugar cookies. Nice.
Overall: Like the Clearac, there is a lot of vodka-like grain alcohol flavor (like glue), but the fruits are replaced by sugar cookies. Again, light in style.
The company also sells a similar peated new-make, and a new-make aged for 6 months in red wine barrels. All are small 200ml bottles.
Note: I would have rated these higher, but for $26 for a 200ml bottle, you can do much better. If you have an opportunity to taste them, however, it’s an education in new-make Scotch, which is rare outside of distillery visits.