Distillery Review 24: Ncn’ean – Off the beaten track

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Still sitting in the lovely Otterburn BnB by the time I am writing this article, I feel its time to have another english version of a distillery review. I actually heard the first time about Drimnin or how they call themselves now Ncn’ean Distillery when Tom Skowronek from the german independent bottler Anam na h-Alba offered to purchase DSC_3448a share of a cask of this new distillery. Always curious about these kind of things I searched for the new distillery that will be the home of the cask for the next 10 years or so. Since we found ourselves staying around the area on our holiday, I was very excited to pay that new distillery a visit. Since my visit to the neighborhood distillery on the peninsular of Ardnamurchan was already an adventure I prepared myself for another drive. And again I felt like driving into a middle earth like fairytale land. I only knew I was gone to far when my car looked at the coast and me at a sign saying „End of Public Road“ :). The distillery is waiting for signposts, which will definitely help to find it ;).

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You wouldn’t be surprised finding Bilbo Baggins smoking a pipe on this road…

Nic.. Nin… What?

Ncn’ean tries to do things a bit different and manages to do so. So lets talk about the youngling. Ncn’ean gave me trouble right from the beginning with no idea how to pronounce its name (now I know its pronounced „Nich Nean/Nian“), so I always had to search for it on the internet with „Drimnin Distillery“ and was then directed to its real home website www.ncnean.com. They wanted to give the distillery its own name, so the owner Annabel Thomas decided to go for the goddess „queen of the spirits“ in Gaelic legend „Neachneohain“ or their „Ncn’ean“. Much nicer in therms of storytelling but bad for anybody who tries to find them on the net :). The „Ncn“ part of the name, as explained to me means „daughter of…“ is the female equivalent of „Mac“ as in for example MacLeod means „son of Leod“. Which might explain why the distillery did not simply stick to its local name „Drimnin Distillery“, because they wanted to leave a female mark on the big picture. The owner of the distillery is a woman, the name comes from a strong and independent woman, a quiet rebel as the leaflet tells. The staff I met on my stay were all women as well, although its not an exclusive female enterprise. Riona (visitor manager and tour guidess) and Lorna (mash woman and distiller) gave me quite a warm and personal welcome. While we are on the subject of distilling, still one man must be named.

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The lovely ladies of Ncn’ean – Riona (left) & Lorna (right)

Since I quite enjoyed most distilleries that the great Jim Swan (R.I.P.) had his hands on, I was happily surprised to learn that this great architect and artist of distilling helped to construct and tune the distillery until he sadly passed away this year. So its no surprise (but nevertheless a great achievement) that the new make of the distillery is excellent and will very certainly be a great whisky one day.

 

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„An organic distillery“

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The distillery wants to be the first fully organic distillery in Scotland and was, by the time this article was written, waiting for its certificate. Today it is proudly approved as an organic enterprise by the Demeter BDA Standard (biodynamic agriculture). They try to do everything as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. This is very much appreciated and since whisky production is already not a pollution heavy process they try to lower their eco footprint by using a biomass boiler to heat the buildings and the stills with wood chips made from local trees (the plant one for every tree they burn). What surprised me most and would certainly qualify for the certificate in my opinion is the exclusive use of 100% organic scottish barely. This is the first distillery to try this as far as I know and I very much hope they will succeed and others will follow.

What about the tour?

DSC_3475The tour itself costs 25 £ which is quite a bit for a new distillery with no whisky to try. Tours are available by booking in advance only, so plan your stay and check on the website before spontaneously dropping by. But since the tour took its time (about two hours), with a warm welcome, some tea and cupcake and a nice try of the newmake and an excellent cocktail in the end, I still very much recommend to invest the money and pay it a visit. Riona is a honest, heartwarming and knowledgable guide and you really get the feeling that everybody is very much invested in the young project. Probably the only downside of the tour itself was that I didn’t see the warehouse since it seems not be easily accessible. I really hope the distillery will add this feature to their tour, since I always love to breath in the atmosphere of these temples. It adds a lot to the experience and gives you a very close look to the very heart of every distillery.

Resume:

Ncn’ean is certainly an interesting distillery project with a promising future. While every single whisky distillery in Scotland has their own style and atmosphere, Ncn’ean takes the organic idea further then any other distillery before and therefore secures itself a unique feature. With the mix of brand-new equipment and half traditional and half innovative methods it seems to be on a good way to a promising product. I will certainly be back in some time to check how things are going for the young lady amongst the distillery crowd.

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From the distillery you have great view over Tobermory on Mull!

Till the next dram on the road!

Leon