“Kininvie? Pffft, it’s just a portacabin with some stills in it.”
That was the response when I told someone I was heading up to the distillery on a Monday morning with Alwynne Gwilt, Whisky Specialist at William Grant & Sons, along with Timna from Usquabae Whisky Bar and Cameron from Scotch at The Balmoral.
“Not much to see really.”
Hmmm… I have to disagree.
Kininvie was established in 1990 with a view to producing whisky for William Grant & Sons blends; namely Grant’s and Clan MacGregor as well as the blended malt, Monkey Shoulder. With two power house single malt whisky brands to look after (Glenfiddich and Balvenie), William Grant’s did not want to release Kininvie as a single malt in its own right, and even went so far as to ‘teaspoon’ any casks which were sold to external blenders, thus instantly turning the contents into a blended malt and therefore preventing anyone from releasing a Kininvie single malt.
More recently, however, Kininvie is fast making a name for itself in its own right, spearheaded by the launch of a 23yo single malt in 2013 (initially mentioned in my world exclusive leak here), followed by a 17yo in 2014. As a distillery, it does piggy back onto Balvenie to an extent, however there is a dedicated mashtun and specific washbacks situated within the Balvenie buildings which produce the Kininvie wash, which is then piped 200-ish metres into the Kininvie stillhouse. Inside, there are 3 quite large wash stills and 6 spirit stills which, when combined with a rather long fermentation time, contribute to making Kininvie’s light, delicate, and floral house style.
Being positioned as a ‘reclusive’ distillery, part of our visit was spent ‘breaking in’ to the distillery one evening when most of the staff had gone home. Cue more balaclava-clad selfies than my phone storage could handle…
Alwynne is also very passionate about the sense of smell and how flavour memories are made. So after gaining entry we were treated to a masterclass in nosing and picking out aromas in whisky, with the aid of the Le Nez Du Whisky aroma kit by Jean Lenoir. It’s a little on the expensive side, but if you really want to improve your whisky vocabulary I’d highly recommend it. Couple that masterclass with some archery, clay pigeon shooting, and fishing, and our trip to Kininvie was one of the more surreal distillery visits I’ve made. I’ve not had too many better Monday mornings!