Abhainn Dearg distillery on Lewis is currently the only distillery in the Outer Hebrides. That will soon change once the Isle of Harris distillery is operational, however they can hold that claim for a while yet.
The name of the distillery means ‘Red River’ in Gaelic and refers to the river next to the distillery which apparently ran red with blood during some particularly violent clan battles. We visited last year and picked up a bottle of each of the expressions they currently produce.
‘The Spirit of Lewis’ is not actually a whisky, but a new make ‘whisky in progress’ which has been aged in a Sherry cask for 3 months before being bottled at 46% ABV.
Very unusual nose; grassy cereal notes make way for a heavier briney smell with little sour lemon acidity.
The sweetness from the sherry cask is there but it’s light and fresh rather than the typical deep rich fruit.
Surprisingly smooth for New Make, though the reduced ABV definitely helps with that. Barley sweetness is the dominant taste, with a medium mouth feel.
The finish is quite spicy with a medium bitter chocolate and brazil nut dryness. There’s a deep herbal mintiness which appears right at the end.
Adding water brings out a little sherry sweetness but it’s easy to wash away some of the depth in the finish so be careful.
The Spirit of Lewis sits squarely in the ‘interesting’ category and gives an indication of what is still to come from the distillery. I’ve read a few scathing reviews of this expression, however I actually don’t mind it and it’s something I could see myself drinking on occasion in the future.
There’s no point in reviewing it as a whisky as it couldn’t possibly achieve the depth of even the youngest whisky after only a few months, but to me it’s got some good flavour and feels pretty balanced so no complaints.
Given the tiny volumes which Abhainn Dearg produce, it’s certainly worth trying this if you get a chance.