Single malt whisky - tasting notes

14 Aug 2014

Abhainn Dearg ‘The Spirit of Lewis’

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in * Other spirits

The Abhainn Dearg distillery, founded by Mark Tayburn in 2008, is located on the the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, one of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.

Since 2011 they are selling a 3 years old Special Edition whisky (at a whopping £ 150), but this is their new make, a single malt spirit (not yet whisky) which is aged in sherry casks for just a few months before it’s bottled.


abhainn-dearg-spirit-of-lewisAbhainn Dearg ‘The Spirit of Lewis’ (46%, OB 2014, 50 cl.)

Nose: strange. Huge rubber and plastic comes out. Burning plastic. Pear syrup and honey pops. Burnt grasses and hay. Hints of grappa. Mouth: quite acidic and bitter, a kind of planky bitterness. Hints of burnt herbs. Rubber and gravel. Brrr… Again a berry / pear sweetness behind it. Finish: invasive, dry and bitter with some metallic notes.

Oh boy, oh boy, it has been a while since I tried something this bad. It’s maybe even the worst thing I ever tried that was labelled ‘whisky in progress’. Very disappointing, really off-track. Around € 50 for 50 cl.

Score: 25/100

Abhainn Dearg ‘The Spirit of Lewis’ 1 Ruben Luyten 2014-08-14
  • sjoerd972

    Can’t say I’m really surprised about this. I’ve bought two bottles of their very first spirit in 2010 and I think it fits this description too.

    For Mark T. I hope things succeed, but to be very honest, I don’t think this will work out in the long run. The price/quality ratio is completely upside down and as a tourist attraction I think they’re just too remote.

    I don’t think all the new distilleries in Scotland are going to make it in the long run, and I think this’ll be one of the first to go.

  • Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    Yep. a few years ago i had Mark (from the good spirits shop) send me a sample of this one. i was curious. i tried it. i was appalled. never re-tried anything of theirs. 25 is indeed fitting.

  • William Read

    Sorry but I just have to disagree, strange yes, but disappointing? No! This whisky is just going to get better. I can’t say I have tasted anything quite like it, and I don’t mean this in a bad way. The first impressions I had when I nosed bottle…..was I have never tried anything like this before, smells of the hebridean shoreline bogs, but not peaty, it seemed to evoke in my nose the terroir of the region from which it sprang, so rare in a whisky these days. And yes I know it’s not yet a whisky, but boy oh boy, am I looking forward to tasting this 10 years down the line.
    So yes, strange, unusual and very different. But very much one to watch.

  • WhiskyNotes

    I never know what to reply when people say “yes, but it’s going to get better”. Indeed it’s still young, but what makes you certain it will improve, let alone become great in ten years? All I can say is that I’ve had stuff that was much more enjoyable at similar ages!

    Strange and unusual doesn’t make it interesting or worth following. When you create something that falls out of the boundaries of the usual whisky profile entirely, then either don’t call it whisky or accept the fact that it’s not well-made from a classic whisky perspective.



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WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.