Nc’Nean is a young whisky distillery started by Annabel Thomas on her family’s farm in Drimnin, accross the water from Tobermory. The distillery was designed by the late Jim Swan and uses long fermentations to produce an estery spirit. In fact they have two recipes: one brighter, meant to be bottled young, and another one aimed at longer ageing.
It was designed as the first fully organic distillery in Scotland, powered by 100% renewable energy (although cutting down local trees for a biomass boiler is not the most sustainable type of green energy in my opinion). Nc’Nean is aiming to be the whisky with the smallest ecological footprint on the market.
The first spirit was made in 2017 and they’ve just released their first single malt whisky. It comes in a 100% recycled (clear!) glass bottle, which even in 2020 is not as easy to source as you’d think.
Batch 1 of their core expression is matured in 65% STR red wine casks and 35% ex-bourbon barrels. For future releases they’re experimenting with some sherry casks and the use of uncommon yeast strains (e.g. those from rum and wine production).
Interestingly they are actively promoting this as a highball whisky, claiming it’s not destroying the whisky’s characteristics. It should be highlighting some of the bright flavours, making it more attractive to the growing group of female whisky enthusiasts.
Nc’nean Organic (46%, OB 2020, 5040 btl.)
Nose: playful, sweet and fruity. Nectarines and peaches mostly, with added notes of yellow apple. In the background there’s a grainy / grassy layer. A candied note (maybe marshmallow) and orange peel. Smooth fragrant aromas as well, like honey and lightly floral oak.
Mouth: sweet again (peach, vanilla custard), with obvious young notes, grainy touches and a big citric side with mint. A bright springtime character, smooth and simple. Then you get the usual charred oaky note of an STR cask, with aniseed, liquorice and allspice.
Finish: not too long, still sweet, very malty and fruity.
Nc’Nean is a designer spirit with obvious Dr. Swan markers. Very much in line with other young STR-based whiskies, albeit with a brighter, light-footed floral touch. For a 3 year-old this recipe may be hard to beat and I confirm it does work well as a highball. On the other hand I personally hope the longer ageing spirit and the yeast experiments will result in more complexity and a more unique personality down the line (I’m not an avid highball drinker). Around € 50-55. Retailers like TWE had some, but people are buying this like crazy – perhaps not always for the right reasons.
Update: now Batch #2 is available from Master of Malt.