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Whisky Reviews

RyeLaw, InchDairnie 2017 Single Grain Scotch Whisky (2022 Release), 46.3% ABV

 

 

This RyeLaw is the first bottling released by InchDairnie Distillery from the Fife region of the Scottish Lowlands. The Fife peninsula (still referred to by the Scots as the Kingdom of Fife) sits across a piece of the North Sea to the north of Edinburgh. It’s a scenic locale and prime agricultural zone known to be conductive for cultivating grains like barley and rye.

The distillery itself began operating in 2015, in the city of Glenrothes - a location not to be confused with the Speyside town of Rothes claimed by the well-known Glenrothes Distillery. The site is on the southern slopes near the Prinlaws Mill and is is steeped in history as it occupies land once part of the InchDairnie estate, a gift from the Scottish crown to the Ayton family in the 1500s, which they held until 1901.

 

 

InchDairnie Distillery stands out for its innovative approach to whiskymaking, its willingness to be very experimental with unique ingredients, and its dedication to its experiments (i.e. it’s willing to wait for them to mature).

As far as I know, it is one of the only distilleries in Scotland to implement a mash filter in its production process - it’s likened to a series to grains being stored in tea bags that were compressed, allowing for an efficient extraction of sugars and flavours from the grist.

The distillery also uses a bespoke Lomond still – a special type of still that has a metal contraption at the top that increases reflux during distillation – making a spirit that is sweeter and oilier in texture.

 

 

The distillery’s first batch of single malt - called the InchDairnie - is still resting in oak after being distilled in 2016. This batch is exclusively made using local barley harvested in Fife. The distillery even differentiates batches of whisky by season – some batches are made from spring barley, some batches are made from winter barley. These batches are also made with distinct yeast recipes, fermentation time and casks aimed at highlighting the seasonality of flavour. This would mean that it isn’t just the local terroir that we might be able to taste in the resulting spirit – we might even get to taste the seasonal variations as well. These folks are new, but I get the sense that they are incredibly meticulous about their craft.

And as I mentioned, they are patient. The Inchdairnie single malt was distilled in 2016, but would only be released in 2029 - highlighting the distillery’s forward-thinking view to things.

 

InchDairnie Distillery is the brainchild of Ian Palmer who had a vision of building a distillery with equipment that breaks the mould, capable of reaching flavours not normally accessible. Ian personally designed and engineered the Lomond Hill still (used for precision distilling RyeLaw). He has also worked as Distilling Manager for distilleries for Dalmore, Jura, Bruichladdich and Fettercairn.

 

The portfolio extends to a peated single malt called the KinGlassie - set for release in 2025 as an 8 years old single malt, and the intriguing PrinLaws range that is set to showcase flavours from different yeasts, cereals and oak. The first batch of PrinLaws was distilled in 2021 and is expected in 2027. Beyond these, the distillery has also experimented challenging ingredients like 6-row winter barley and dark kilned barley, typically reserved for brewing dark ales.

 

In case you're wondering how rye might differ from barley or wheat.

 

As its siblings continue to rest in oak, our focus today is on the RyeLaw Single Grain – the first bottling recently released by InchDairnie.

 

This sample of the RyeLaw 2017 is kindly provided by Resaca Singapore.

 

This is made with 53% malted rye and 47% malted barley - a mashbill that mirrors the ratio of American rye whiskies that require at least 51% rye. But it’s not quite the same either. Unlike American ryes, which predominantly use unmalted rye, InchDairnie works with malted rye, which is also challenging to work with. The malting process of rye is difficult because it tends to get very sticky and clumpy when sprayed with water, and is also more susceptible to diseases and molds compared to barley.

The grains are then fermented with special rye-specific yeast which according to the founders, “results in lower yields, but higher flavour” - a rule of thumb echoed by the Thompson Bros of Dornoch.

After distillation, they are then kept in charred Virgin oak casks from the Ozark Mountains – which once again seems like a very American whiskey-influenced approach.

Let’s give this a taste!

RyeLaw, InchDairnie 2017 Single Grain Scotch Whisky, 46.3% ABV – Review

 

Nose: Sweet, vibrant and pure - very reminiscent of an American bourbon but with a more candied character that is indisputably Scotch. It's laden with honey, medley of caramel-dipped apples, stewed apples and Martinelli's clarified apple juice. This appley fruitiness is compounded by powdered sugar and this general cereal sweetness, with a bit of rose peeking through. There's also a complex array of spices just as present, and some herbal notes: light eucalyptus and spearmint.

It's quite honeyed and pure with next to no bitterness or oakiness detected. 

Palate: Fwoah - it's both really vibrant in its sweetness and very spicy. It also has a lightly oily texture that coats the tongue.

Like the nose it's heavily draped in honey. Apple juice dominates once again while biscuity flavours are gently introduced, evoking thoughts of baked apple pie. This is beautifully intertwined with vanilla and caramel in the background.

As expected from the rye, it's got a very robust spice profile that evolves slightly, beginning with black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, star anise, and then the distinctive zing of Sichuan mala peppers.

Finish: There's a peak of warmth and spice with a chili padi-like kick right at the end that targets the back of the tongue. More vanilla and lighter oak nuances show up along with a hint of toasted coconut flakes.

 

My Thoughts

This one's really different and really memorable! The RyeLaw is something like a cross between a spicy American rye whisky and a delightfully vibrant refill cask Scotch. Unlike an American rye, it's also much cleaner with lots of fresh orchard fruit influences. It's also got a pleasant oily texture (courtesy of the Lomond still, no doubt) as well as a very nuanced evolution from warm spices to bold pepper, to various herbs.

This is a solid sipping dram that I find myself drawn to for seconds. The distinctiveness of the fruitiness and spiciness also makes for an interesting Manhattan cocktail. The spiciness should balance beautifully with sweet vermouth and bitters, while the existing fruitiness would make for a more vibrant overall cocktail.

The sheer intensity of the spice might overwhelm those less acquainted with cask strength whisky though. Unlike American rye which tend to mellow down the inherent spiciness with heavy caramel and oak, we don't get the same counterbalance in the RyeLaw which has a much lighter, fruitier profile. I think this would be wonderfully balanced if it's just a tad less spicy.

Overall, a solid choice for Scotch or American rye enthusiasts looking for something unique but not completely unfamiliar. Also a great showcase of the unusually delightful stuff soon to come from InchDairnie Distillery.  

My Rating: 7/10

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

 

For Singaporean readers, the RyeLaw is now available on Resaca Singapore!

@CharsiuCharlie