Kininvie special-release whisky

A stunning single malt from a tiny Scottish distillery

As far as I’m concerned, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a decent dram enjoyed beside a roaring fire. So I’ve been sure to secure one particular festive gift (for myself) well in advance of the big day. And that’s a bottle of the Special Release #1 that recently became available from the tiny Kininvie distillery in Dufftown, Moray.

Although you might never have heard of this seemingly elusive whisky, there’s a good chance you’ll have tasted it. Since Kininvie production began in 1990, it has been used for the blending market.

But it wasn’t until 2013 that the first pure Kininvie single malt, a 23-year-old release, became available. The small batch was shipped exclusively to Taiwan before going on sale last year in Britain and the Nordics. It sold out predictably quickly, which compounded my determination to get hold of a bottle of this year’s pronto – after all, a mere 1,600 have been produced for the entire world, with just 550 being earmarked for the UK.

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Also known as The First Drops, this remarkable whisky is made from the very first liquid taken off by the still men on June 25 1990, the first day of Kininvie production. It was then placed in hogshead bourbon barrels and left to mature – for a full 25 years.

Despite my best intentions to keep my prized bottle for Christmas Day, my professional commitment to telling you about it forced an early tasting. The aroma is best described as soft and buttery, without a hint of harshness, while the distinctly sweet vanilla flavour is combined with a vibrant freshness and pleasantly oaky overtones.

My First Drops come from bottle number one, taken from cask 21 (such information is printed on each label). Yours, however, might be from one of the other two casks and will therefore be subtly different. But I have little doubt that it will be just as good – or that you will fail to resist opening it before December 25.

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