Kininvie is a quite young Speyside distillery owned by William Grant & Sons. Created in 1990, the first expression of a Kininvie single malt had to wait until 2006 to be released, under the name Hazelwood, named that would later be reused for a blend. We reviewed one of those a few months ago with the House of Hazelwood 18yo. Let’s introduce Kininvie a bit more before reviewing their 23yo single malt, this time wearing the distillery’s name.
Back in 1990, William Grant & Sons were getting low on whisky stocks. They did own Glenfiddich and Balvenie, capable of producing way more than 10 million litres of alcohol per year for the former, and 6 or 7 million lpa for the latter, but the success of the distillery as a single malt meant they couldn’t redirect enough of Glenfiddich’s production to their in-house blends. So they decided to open a third distillery on the same site just behind Balvenie, and the first distillation took place on the 25th of June 1990. Malting and mashing are done inside Balvenie distillery but in dedicated vessels, with their own barley and a slightly longer fermentation. The wash is then pumped to Kininvie’s still house to be distilled first in one of the three wash stills, then in the attached pair of spirit stills (Kininvie has three wash stills each feeding its own pair of spirit stills.) The wash stills are bigger than those at Glenfiddich, but the spirit stills are similarly shaped.
In 2019, William Grand & Sons created an innovation arm at Kininvie, called Kininvie Works, that released three “experimental” Kininvie whiskies: a triple-distilled single malt, a single grain using a rye and barley mash passed through its copper pot stills, and a “single distillery” blend made from double-distilled single malt and their single grain.
Kininvie 23-year-old review
Launched in 2013 initially, the Kininvie 23-year-old was at first a Taiwan exclusive release. A second batch appeared the year after. Matured in hogsheads & sherry butts, it was released in half bottles of 350 or 375 ml on Asian travel retail shops. While bottled at a low 42.6% abv, it is uncoloured and unchill-filtered. Price was quite expensive though I don’t have the exact price, but you had to expect way more than 100 USD for this half-bottle…
At first you’re greeted with quite reserved notes of solvent and citrus, but after a few moments the nose evolves to gentle floral and grassy notes. Vanilla is quite present, and some insistence will allow you to detect tropical fruits notes of mango and papaya. Nonetheless, the nose feels a bit quiet, and a few more percent of alcohol would probably have given it more oomph.
The arrival is soft and quite thin, probably again because of the low abv. The citrus from the nose is also present on the palate, reinforced with the biting of ginger slivers from a cheap sushi plate. Oak from the casks provides spices as well with clove and nutmeg and some kind of bitterness. Finally, the palate becomes sweeter with vanilla and caramel.
Notes of chocolate appear on the finish with oak spices and citrus once again, providing a good warmth for a medium length.
This whisky needs time to open, both in the glass and in the bottle. The first time I tried it, it was the first or second dram poured from the bottle and it was extremely quiet both on nose and palate. This review is made from a sample taken while the (small) bottle is reaching the end (probably one or two drams left at most), and I find it to be better now than the first time. Nonetheless, everything, palate and nose, remain very reserved, as if William Grant & Sons wanted Kininvie to experiment while keeping a low profile. But unfortunately, the price asked for half a usual bottle of whisky makes me think it was more on trying an attempt at passing for a luxury whisky and relieve Asian travellers of their fat wallet. I hope the three ‘experiments’ they released last year were more convincing, but honestly, this 23-year-old isn’t. I’ve docked a couple points from the rating because of the price asked really not on par with the liquid brings to the table. Or the glass.
But don’t take our word for it…
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