Established in 1992, Mossburn are a relatively new Independent Bottler to Inverurie Whisky Shop, headed by Master Blender Neil MacLeod Mathieson.
Over the last 3 decades, Mathieson had been working in the background, importing specialist spirits for the more cultivated drinker. Using his decades of experience in wine and spirits, he continued honing his blending and distilling skills for the project that lay ahead. In 2017, another milestone for the company came as spirit first flowed from the stills at Torabhaig Distillery on the Isle of Skye.
Torabhaig was a long time in the making, and not just for Mossburn, but for the previous visionary who identified the site as a prime location for distilling. In the late early 1800’s, a farm steading was built using stone from the nearby ruined castle, Caisteal Camus on the coast of Skye. This farm building was granted planning for a conversion into a distillery in 2002. Unfortunately, the man behind the original plan passed away before his vision could be fulfilled.
Iain Noble, a tireless activist of the Gaelic language and founder of the Gaelic College on Skye was as passionate about Scotch whisky as he was the ancient Scots language. He was also behind the whisky company Pràban na Linne, known as the Gaelic Whiskies, releasing the blends Poit Dhubh (black/illicit still) Te Bheag nan Eileen (small dram of the island) and Mac Na Mara (son of the sea).
It was not until 2014 that the project was picked up again by Neil and Mossburn, and ground was broken at the soon to be Torabhaig Distillery, soon after spirit ran and the first release, Legacy, was released 4 years later.
Plans for Mossburn to open a second, innovative distillery in the Lowland region, named Reivers Distillery are ongoing. For now the independent bottling range and Torabhaig are very much front and centre.
Mossburn release 3 ranges of whisky under their name, a Blended Malt range, consisting of an Island and Speyside release. Finished in ‘Frankencasks’ – a cask made up from a mix of casks used previously for different spirits, these offer a more classic view of the regional whiskies named, but with a nearly unique finishing style adding complexity and flavour.
The Vintage Casks range is also split between a 46% range, batch releases of limited numbers, and the cask strength single cask range. Here I will give my opinions of two bottles I picked up on a recent visit to Torabhaig.
Mossburn Vintage Casks No. 29 – 14 Year Old MacDuff finished in Ruby Port Hogshead. Bottled at 56.4% ABV.
A lovely rose gold colour hints at a pretty active Ruby Port cask being used in the finishing stages of this 14 year old single cask release from Mossburn Distillers & Blenders.
On the nose is very little alcohol, instead loading the nostrils with sweet notes of creme brûlée, milk chocolate, barley sugars and floral violet notes. Further investigation takes in malty biscuits, fresh hay and cereal hints. Juicy, fruit sweets (tutti fruity perhaps, or skittles) take centre stage after about 20 minutes in the glass.
A peppery note comes out straight away on the palate, catching you unaware due to the set, fruity nature of the nose. Bear with that, hold the dram and open it up to an array of attractive flavours. Raspberry jus, balanced with bittersweet orange peel. A little aniseed adds depth but is in no way strong. Those fruit sweets are just under the surface – every time you thing it’s going to dry out, chew it a little and rediscover those fruity notes of apricot marmalade, raspberry (sometimes wrapped in milk chocolate) and touches of oak.
The finish is chewable and salivating. Petering out very slowly as it mellows in fruitiness and leaves bitter dark chocolate, orange peel and soft savoury spices.
Mossburn Vintage Casks No 30 – 14 Year Old Auchroisk finished in Bordeaux Red Wine Barrel. Bottled at 46% ABV
The colour of the cask here is still quite evident, after the cutting down to 46%, hues of pink rose shimmer through the golden whisky colour.
Strawberries and barley water immediately on the nose, drawing you back to summer days drinking juice in the garden, with your ice cream and jelly dessert still lingering. A very tempting, fruity number, with fresh summer fruits and a little depth provided by parma violet sweets. This one is all about freshness on the nose, almost to the point aI want to quaff it in a thirst-quenching gulp!
A lot of the freshness arrives initially on the palate. As the nose suggests, holding this in the mouth long enough to investigate is difficult. An immensely drinkable drop. Not much in the way of complexity but as a drinker this will suit most palates. It would have been incredible at cask strength, but the drinkability here is undeniable. Blackcurrants, red grapes and honey come through with a little lemon zestiness adding to the summer day vibe.
The finish surprises with a little naked spice coming out of nowhere and completely altering the perspective. Now some more complex notes. Raspberry jam on toast, a little more bittersweet and dry flavours popping up. Disciplining yourself to hold this in the mouth during the taste opens up these long lasting flavours, however it is very easy to miss them as they disappear quite quickly with a casual sip.
If you add water to this one be careful – it really just turns into diluting juice! What a dangerously quaffable whisky. It’s not often I recommend a whisky as a thirst quencher on a summers day, but this one might be right up there for the occasion.
These are two very enjoyable whiskies from Mossburn, why not check out some more from their range at our online shop Inverurie Whisky Shop
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