Edinburgh-based Wemyss Malts is a family run independent bottler, which first started producing whisky in 2005. The family started out bottling whiskies from other distilleries, choosing to name them after their natural flavours and aromas, before starting to produce their own spirits in recent years. More on that later though, because although they may be relative newcomers to the whisky market, the Wemyss family has a long a distinguished history.
Wemyss (pronounced “Weems”) is the Gaelic word for the rocky outcrop on the Firth of Forth on which their family home, Wemyss Castle, sits. Looking back towards Edinburgh, the castle has been the family seat for over six centuries. As one of the oldest families in Scotland, they have a rich history, which also includes links to the origins of the modern Scotch whisky industry. Back in 1824, John Haig built his distillery on the family’s land in Fife, and even today, barley from the Wemyss Estate is prized by many leading distillers.
With a background in premium wine, the family decided in 2005 to bring their knowledge and expertise to bear on the whisky industry, with impressive results. Ably assisted by an expert nosing panel – led by whisky legend Charlie McLean – Wemyss choose the best casks that the whisky industry has to offer.
After they’ve been chosen, the casks will proceed in one of two directions. Those of outstanding quality will make their way into the Single Cask range, with the aim of ensuring each cask chosen is representative of the region it comes from. With a background in wine, the family is well aware that the practice of blending can help to create truly unique expressions. This philosophy has been applied to the whisky industry, with a small number of fine casks (but no more than 10) blended together to create the perfect marriage of flavours.
What unites both these approaches is how the whiskies are named. Rather than naming them after the distilleries they hail from or giving them obscure Scottish names, both the single malts and blends are given names which reflects the unique aromas and flavours found within the bottle. This came from the realisation that, even for the knowledgeable consumer, whisky terminology can be confusing, instead choosing the Ronseal approach i.e. it does exactly what it says on the tin, or in this case, bottle.
Despite over a decade of success, the company isn’t resting on its laurels. A few years ago, it jumped on the gin bandwagon and produced the delicious Darnley’s Gin, which is named after Lord Darnley – Mary Queen of Scots’ husband, whom she met at Wemyss Castle. And finally, at the tail end of last year, the company opened its very own distillery. Kingsbarns is close to the family’s ancestral home and will release its first whisky around Easter 2018.
So there you have it – a quick overview from one of Scotland most interesting and distinctive independent bottlers. Be sure to come back this Thursday and I’ll be guiding you the entire Wemyss blended malts range.