By Kenny Kemp
How Kingsbarns Distillery bosses have turned their dream into a reality
William Wemyss and Isabella Wemyess, founders of the East Neuk of Fife distillery, will today be toasting the launch of their first flagship malt
Kingsbarns distillery team are getting set to celebrate the launch of their first bottles of single malt Scotch whisky, a three-year-old matured in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks filled in 2015
A gargle (if that’s the right collective noun) of leading whisky writers will be sampling a historic moment in the East Neuk of Fife when a single malt Scotch whisky is launched today.
Their expert verdict will be eagerly awaited by William and Isabella Wemyss who have turned their dream into a reality. For, William and sister Isabella, the founders of Kingsbarns Distillery will be toasting the launch of their first flagship malt: Kingsbarns Dream to Dram with 80 friends, neighbours and whisky lovers at the distillery.
Already there is demand in more than 35 markets for this Fife-made Scotch.
The new release is a dram slowly crafted with barley harvested from the golden fields of East Fife and in a corner of Scotland that is synonymous with golf.
The Wemyss family has lived and worked in Fife for generations and has a longstanding passion for whisky dating back to the 19 Century. In the 18 century the Wemyss dynasty were the major coal-masters of Fife, with their mines dotted near the coast north-east of Kirkcaldy and towards Methil.
The family were great innovators opening early waggon-ways to haul the fuel which gave birth to the First Industrial Revolution, with the coal from General William Wemyss’ mines exporting 6,000 tons a year to the Netherlands. After the coal industry was nationalised, the Wemyss family began to look at other industries. Distilling was an obvious choice.
The result is a light and clean yet complex Lowland style malt whisky which captures the essence of this corner of Scotland. Dream to Dram is packaged in a blue, gold and brown to symbolise the natural elements of the East Neuk, with a pigeon motif representing the historic ‘doocot’ that sits at the heart of the distillery – a restored farm steading dating back to the 1800s.
After the Second World War, the family moved into the wine industry, which gave them a start in the drinks industry.
William set up Wemyss Malts, an independent bottler buying which selected distillers’ casks, in 2005.
“We added the Darnley’s gin in 2010 and we have a distribution network covering around 35 markets and in the UK.
“We got to the stage where we wanted to own a distillery and there were no distilleries for sale at the time. We live and worked in Fife for generations and the natural home was here."
The germ of the idea came about when former professional Kingsbarns Golf Links caddy Douglas Clement in 2010 urged William to create a local dram.
“Every time I caddy, the visiting golfers ask where can they go for a local whisky and I have to send them south to Edinburgh or up to Tullibardine. We think there’s an real opportunity to bring it nearer to us here,’’ he said.
Golf and whisky were natural partners and so the derelict B-listed farm steading at Kingsbarns was convert into a new distillery. The whole project cost £3 million plus spending on maturation and bonding.
After a three year restoration project which retained the building’s features, the distillery was officially opened on St Andrew’s Day 2014, with the first whisky laid down in March 2015.
The East Neuk enjoys high levels of sunshine, good soil and not too much rain, which creates the perfect growing conditions for barley. Every drop of Dream to Dram is made from barley harvested in these fields.
The addition of pure, rich mineral water drawn from an aquifer 100 metres below the Distillery adds to the local character.
A long, slow production process in copper pot stills is at the heart of distillation: a 3 – 5 day fermentation period, wash stills that run for 8 hours and a slow running spirit still with high cut points. That will never change and the stills will never run any faster.
Maturation is primarily in high calibre first fill bourbon casks (90%), sourced from Heaven Hill in Kentucky by Isabella Wemyss, with the remainder maturing in shaved, toasted and re-charred wine casks. All Kingsbarns casks are matured in warehouses not far from the distillery in Fife.
William Wemyss said: “This is an immensely proud day for Kingsbarns Distillery and everyone who has been involved in turning our dream of making whisky in Fife into a reality. Dream to Dram is a wonderful single malt that I think perfectly captures the Lowland style and the character of our East Neuk home in Fife. So much hard work, skill and dedication has gone into crafting our whisky over the past three years so my thanks and congratulations go to everyone at Kingsbarns.
"We’ll be raising a glass of Dream to Dram tonight to toast what I’m sure will be a most exciting future for our new whisky as we share it with drinkers around the world."
Dream to Dram is the first generally available single malt whisky from Kingsbarns Distillery. It follows a limited release of the exclusive ‘Founders Reserve’ for members of the Kingsbarns Distillery Founders Club in December 2018.