Eden Mill Distillery in Fife may still be waiting for its spirit to be officially called whisky but it is certainly putting some interesting products our way already.
The range of ales from their brewery and their varying styles of gin have all been of a superb quality whilst remaining deliciously diverse.
Even as a tourist attraction it seems to be doing remarkably well as I sit and watch yet another group of visitors ready themselves for a gin tour whilst waiting by the Tasting Bar at the distillery visitor centre for my guide and host, Marc Watson.
If you want to get a feel for a distillery, to understand the ethos and attitude of a place, to get under the skin and dissect the DNA of a product, then you really need to spend time with the Distiller and have him show you around, letting him potter around and play about as he goes, getting excited about the future and proudly showing off his toys.
Now the tour is over and I’m sitting at the tasting bar chatting all things whisky with Marc, who just so happens to be the Distiller here at Eden Mill.
In front of us are some intriguing samples of their latest works in progress. These are a selection of their two year old ‘spirit drinks’ and I’m about to get a masterclass. ..
First up on the tasting bar:
St Andrews Day. – 100% Pale malt
Marc: We distillers at Eden Mill are very fortunate about our kit design. We also make beer. Beer requires different malt which gives us the opportunity to play with and combine different malts in our mash bill and really create interesting base malts for our casks.
However, with this guy, the malt is the 100% pale Golden Promise. We took a page out of heritage distillers Macallan’s book, to develop this as the first of our new make malt base. It was cut quite deep at that time, we let the hints of the fruity feints reach the spirit before it was loaded into the French Virgin Octaves. The new make spirits we created for this series were all loaded into octaves.
You are asking but ‘why Marc?’
“Surely this is going to over oak the spirit if you leave it any length of time?”
I would say that we are young distillers making our own way in the whisky business. We can read about and witness other people’s single malt and their learning but we are still developing our own style. We are always learning. We wanted to learn what the octaves would do to the spirit, how it could ‘age’ it quicker, and how it could give us a better idea of what monster or angel it was destined to become.
We released the new make. We made new mash bills. We released more new make. We then released the 1 year old and now this glorious last pit stop on the route to single malt. The two year old was released 6 months into its 3rd year. Which means the clock is ticking. We are almost at 3 years. Which is scary and exciting in equal parts.
Really the workhorse of the Eden Mill new make malt base the Golden Promise makes up most of the liquid we have produced. It has a lovely sweet almond undertones that can be blended into the more astringent coffee and chocolate malts to really round them out and mellow them down. It smells incredible in the still house and then we lock it away for its years in the oak and we really hope you enjoy it.
Eden Mill, OB, St Andrews Day Spirit Drink 43% abv (available here)
There is an initial waft of over ripened bananas alongside apricot skins and some waxy lemons. Perhaps even a touch of soap.
The palate is spiced with a gentle woody presence and a soft nutty feeling, perhaps even the emergence of a little brown sugar.
The finish marks the re-emergence of the fruit, giving a finish where the lighter fruity notes hover above some deeper spiced elements.
Hogmanay – 88.3% Golden Promise – 11.7% Chocolate Malt
Marc: We were a young company exploring the waters of distilling for the first time. We had a visit from the legend that is Charlie Mclean and he suggested to director Paul Miller, ‘Use different malts. No one else can really do much with different malts.’
Its true most people have massive silos, and grain mills that can’t change what they produce. This begun the pulling of the thread. We started to unravel what can and can’t be done. We started to experiment with different grains and with that, the ideas started flowing. ‘Let’s get chocolate malt in the mash!’.
Immediately the change was apparent, the run off was dark, the flavours and smells from the brewhouse were incredible. It was dark, it was bitter, it was packed with different flavours and was really different to the 100% Pale recipe. We loved it. Here was the playfulness off the distillers and malt personified. It is dark, astringent, woody and moody.
It has promise. We will continue to keep an eye on it and how it is developing. I don’t think it has reached its full potential and we are excited at just how far it change and develop over time.
Eden Mill, OB, Hogmanay Spirit Drink 43% abv (available here)
The nose is a little sappy, with cloves, pine needles and a waft of herbaceous notes overlaying an alcohol prickle.
The palate is spiced but feels rather thick and buttery. There are cloves, allspice and pine wood.
The finish is quite drying and perhaps a little astringent, there are pungent oak notes and a slight damp feeling right at the end.
Burns Night – 88.3% Golden Promise – 5.85% Crystal Malt – 5.85% Brown Malt
Marc: This mash bill is my favourite. You shouldn’t have favourites but I really enjoy what this mash bill imparts on the spirit. I am a coffee fiend. Anyone who visits the distillery would probably note the amount of coffees consumed by myself.
It was the incredible coffee culture in Finland that cemented my love of all things coffee. If you get the chance to taste the hot wort at the distillery this mash tastes like a Cortado coffee.
The spirit coming off the still tastes like cafe latte. I was excited to try it when it had been in the dark of the oak for 2 years and I wasn’t disappointed.
It is a young dram don’t get me wrong, but it spoke to my inner coffee and whisky lover.
We have actually not played with this recipe at all since it was first introduced. It is inefficient in terms of fermentation, distillation yield but I don’t care it. It has a little bit of soul of something different in it that I really enjoy. It makes me happy to make this new make spirit which makes me want to produce it again and again.
Everytime we make this new make and it hits the inside of the barrel I am smiling. We have aged this expression in US Virgin Oak Octaves. I find the wood very complimentary to the flavours we have tried to create in the new make spirit. I am excited about this expression more than the others, I can’t wait to call this whisky and let everyone try it.
Eden Mill, OB, Burns Night Spirit Drink 43% abv (available here)
The nose is quite zesty, surprisingly so for such a young dram. There’s a spiced overtone and then the hints of smooth toffee to come.
The palate turns from fruity to chocolatey. It may be the power of Marc’s suggestion but I do seem to get mocha or perhaps cafe latte.
There is a little dark chocolate bitterness, a touch of woody sharpness and a twist of black pepper at the finish.
Thanks again to Marc for his time and for his company, as well as a great insight into a new and upcoming distillery.
Extremely interesting to delve a bit deeper into the process of product development and experimentation.
Watch this space folks…