Is natural whisky a thing?
Does the obsession for the raw, organic and natural have bearing in the world of Scotch whisky? It is firmly established in the wine world, and certainly a presence in the beer world, but perhaps not as significant when it comes to grain-based spirits. This may be due to the fact that organic labelling only kicked off at the turn of the century and the natural movement established itself in the last decade, which in whisky age terms is quite recent. There are pioneers of organic barley sourcing as we can taste organic whiskies from distilleries such as Bruichladdie and Benromach, bottled from 2009 and 2010 respectively; as well the first certified organic Scottish distillery Ncn’ean is set to release its first whisky this year. However, as we can separate farming from production, natural practices are more likely found in the distillery and focus on showcasing spirits that are cask strength and non-chill filtered and thus may be considered as lower intervention. Many Scotch houses are experimenting with this style, suggesting that the enhanced flavour and more intense character is worth the cloudiness in the glass- though when bottled above 46% the spirit should be clear during its time on the shelf and prior to dilution. If ever there was a time to travel a paved road to market selling a cloudy beverage though this is it thanks to the seemingly unstoppable natural wine movement. The question is, does this unfiltered style resonate with whiskey drinkers? Is natural Scotch whiskey a thing?
The Glenlivet Naddura series- Naddura translates to natural- debuted with the Naddura Triumph in 2009, using the Triumph variety of barley and from 1991 vintage. The series has grown to include several more well received whiskies released between 2014 and 2017 including the two featured in tasting notes here; the Oloroso cask matured was the second in the Naddura stable to the Triumph and the Peated cask matured is the most recent release. All Naddura whiskies are non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength with no colour adjustments. Outside of the Triumph bottling they are without age designation.
Naddura Oloroso Cask matured Batch OLO818 (bottled in 2018) $86.95 60.02%
Matured in 100% former Oloroso sherry casks, this one is a deeper reddish-amber hue. The nose is showy, with warm and rich aromas of dried figs, prunes, a sweet spice note, and a slightly earthy or burnt tar aroma. It opens to a red-fruited pie filling character with a few drops of water. On the palate, more dried fruit but also spice and a deep richness and weight put this one in the after-dinner category for me. A real departure from the classic gentle, more subtle house style.
Naddura Peated Cask matured Batch PW1016 (bottled in 2016) $88.95 62%
This one is matured in casks that previously held a heavily peated whiskey. Pale, translucent gold in the glass. The nose is more delicate, with the smokiness creeping in on the edges rather than dominating. The classic Glenlivet apple orchard (fruits and blossoms) is at the focus. Upon dilution, a cereal/biscuit note comes out, with a touch of vanilla spice. The palate offers more of the smokiness, but nowhere near what a peated whisky tends to give. The finish is long, complex and warming.