Malted barley, yeast and water. Only three ingredients but a world of possible flavours. Our whisky spirit is made from 100% organic Scottish barley, whose low yields result in concentrated flavour and whose farming practices encourage biodiversity and soil health. Yeast is magical and complex, responsible for developing so many of the flavours in our spirit. We use two varieties for our house style: one creates fruity flavours, the other is a more traditional distilling yeast.
We are spirit nuts. Yes, maturation is critical to our whisky, but our passion is really for the spirit that comes straight off the still. Everything we do is designed to achieve our trademark pure, fruity unaged spirit (called ‘new make’). Our malted barley is mashed slowly, fermented slowly and distilled slowly. The malted barley spends an hour resting for flavour development and another 20 minutes being filtered through the husks for purity. We ferment for up to 114 hours. We collect only the purest, fruitiest part of our spirit distillation. Unlike many other whisky distilleries we run different spirit recipes at different times of year, depending on what we envisage bottling at the end of maturation. We mature in a range of casks, predominantly specially treated red wine and American whiskey barrels to develop depth and sweetness.
A philosophy, a way of looking at the world, a curiosity, a willingness to try. From the development of our completely unique Botanical Spirit in partnership with Heriot-Watt University and our friends at Beinn an Tuirc, to our yeast experiments, asking why? or what if? has been the start of them all. The more we work with yeast, the more fascinated we become and each new experiment is another great adventure. Our trials of rum yeast (that is yeast that was originally developed to be used by rum distilleries) produced wonderful pineapple aromas in our spirit; blackberries and plums were produced by a red wine yeast. It will be a while yet until any of these experiments make it into a bottle, but we’re keeping a close eye on their development.
Dr. Jim Swan was involved with Nc’nean from the beginning. He helped design our distillery, our house style and our maturation approach. A legend in the world of whisky, he was instrumental in helping many of the new distilleries we admire around the world establish their fantastic whiskies. Jim died suddenly in February 2017, just as we were commissioning the distillery. We were lucky to have had his guidance and he is sorely missed. We often wonder what he would have made of our yeast trials, of our Botanical spirit, and now of our whisky.
His work is being continued by our small team of distillers, the majority of whom are new to making whisky. Click here to meet them.