Wolfburn Distillery is located in the most northerly town on the British mainland, Thurso. It was first established in 1821 by William Smith and was the largest producer of whisky in Caithness in the 1820s. However, the distillery was closed in 1837 and remained inactive for over 160 years. In 2012, a private consortium from Caithness called Aurora Brewing received planning permission to rebuild Wolfburn, 350 m from the ruins of the original site and using the same water source, the Wolf Burn. Production commenced on January 25, 2013, marking the revival of this historic distillery. We’re trying two of their core releases: Wolfburn Northland and Morven.
Wolfburn Northland Review
Wolfburn’s Northland is the distillery’s first release since reopening. Released in early 2016, the whisky matured in American oak quarter casks that previously contained Islay whisky. Bottled between three and four years old, this whisky is non-chill filtered, natural-coloured, and bottled at 46% ABV. About €65 in France, and £43 in the UK. And just €40 in Germany, life is unjust.
The nose is fairly subtle, with delicate notes of floral peat and a subtle hint of citrus, specifically oranges. There are also some underlying notes of white asparagus and malt, with a subtle touch of mint leaves on the finish.
Upon first sip, this whisky has a relatively light mouthfeel, with initial flavours of spices such as pepper and ginger slices, which are accompanied by a pleasant sweetness. As the taste develops, notes of smoked chocolate and burnt wood ashes emerge, along with a hint of tea leaves, traces of eucalyptus and a touch of honey.
The finish of this whisky is characterised by notes of rich chocolate and herbal smoke, which linger on the palate for a medium to long period of time.
This Wolfburn Northland is pleasant, aromatic, youthful, and lively, although a bit light on the palate. The light and enjoyable peat notes add an extra layer of complexity to the whisky’s flavour profile. At Germany’s price, it has a good value for money. At French prices, however, you’ll find way better for the same money.
Wolfburn Morven Review
Named after the highest peak in the Caithness region of Scotland, surrounded by inaccessible bogs, Wolfburn Morven is a lightly peated single malt first released in 2017 and is their first lightly peated expression. (Northland took its smoke notes from the ex-Islay casks, but the malt was unpeated). This non-chill filtered expression is bottled in its natural colour and has been aged in ex-Bourbon casks. Expect to pay between €38 and €43 in Germany, €65 in France and about £43 in the UK.
The aroma of this Morven is characterized by a subtle, light smoke, which is accompanied by notes of fresh pear, green apple, and grapefruit. Overall, the scent feels quite youthful, similar to the Northland expression.
On the palate, the Morven reveals a slightly more prominent peat flavour than what is perceived on the nose, in line with its lightly peated label description. It is slightly sweeter than the Northland expression, but with a soft bitterness that balances the sweetness. Notes of butterscotch and a hint of vanilla add a creamy and smooth mouthfeel, while the fruity notes of pear and peach syrup offer a sweet and tangy contrast.
The finish of this whisky is characterized by notes of smoked carambar, which is a French caramel candy (though not smoked) and hints of ginger that offer a slight spiciness to the finish. The aftertaste lingers for a medium-long duration.
Overall, this whisky is enjoyable, although it feels quite young, and in comparison to the Northland expression, falls slightly short for my preference.