Quietly does it
It’s been hard to ignore the Nc’nean distillery output over the last few years. Bottle aside, which is a work of art and should be applauded for taking whisky branding and packaging in a brave and exciting new direction, I think the product is some of the best and most worthwhile young scotch out there from the slew of new, home grown distilleries. Their Batch One was solidly put together and tasted better than it’s youthfulness would suggest and with each successive batch, they just got better; Batch Five was a belter imo. And it has a recognisable house style too. The Dr.Swan DNA is there, the wine casks and STR staves techniques marries well with the fruity new make and the result is a scotch which is delicious, rich for its age, vibrant and, if not complex, then full of interesting flavours and odours and all wrapped up in a pleasantly oily texture. It’s a bloody good start in my book.
So, as the distillery ages and grows and the halo of batch one fades, it’s important to keep the interest in the brand going, great core expressions only go so far these days. The collector/speculator is always on the hunt for the next great white whale. And so, like Bruichladdich’s valinch series, Nc’nean have launched their Quiet Rebels. Enough waffle. Get in my glass.
Nose it and it’s a pungent affair. There’s a lot going on and it’s one of those inviting noses that keeps you whacking your beak back into the glass time and time again to work out what is going on. Initially I got a fist full of doughy, bready notes mingles with pickled ginger and some sage. Hot sawn oak, mustard seed, then pungent wine notes, that flush of a red wine like heat and red fruits, sweet, syrupy melons and other yellow fruits, some camphor and a sauterne-like wine note in the mix. Strangely it sounds from the description it should be a sweet nose but, the whole is far more spicy and dry and edges towards a neutral, bitter wood aspect with dry peppermint far in the background. It’s quite a complicate affair to be sure and over half an hour in the glass it really does jump about. It’s worth spending time with the nose on this one. (EDIT: As another also pointed out - there is a Tonka bean thing to this whisky, very interesting).
In the mouth and it’s a surprisingly like the nose. The sweetness arrives up front and then is joined very quickly by wood and ginger and pepper and red wine like soaked wood note, candied ginger syrup, toasted oak is like the backbone in the mix, sitting behind every flavour. Sweet, hot peppery, oaky, lovely amounts of ginger, red apples, greengages arrive. The Tokaji barrels also become more noticeable on the palate as you have a few more drams, it’s very enjoyable feeling as this this presence grows, it feels like a perfect pairing to the distillate’s fruity character. Going back to the nose after a good few sips and you think there is a sulphur note to it (like Higland Park), quince jam on burnt toast and some feint bbq meatiness, there’s also a rum agricole thing going on. And clove oil. Mmmm. It’s very warming and, if not perfectly composed, it is complex and interesting and certainly perfect for cold winter days. It makes me think this is the kind of whisky that begs to be added to a cup of mulled wine - it just seems a natural fit.
Finish is big and spicy and drying and rich with flavours. The ginger and oak and red fruit all flap about amusingly, there’s a certain chocolate and raspberry bush note that appears more at the end than is obvious at any other point and a little black pepper. It’s young and fighty but not to its detriment. If anything it tastes like a a dram of possibilities. It’s daring and interesting and equally one worth sharing as one worthy of sitting and chewing over for a few hours when the family has gone to sleep and your after an hour of sanity.
So. Quiet Rebels. Obviously a flippers delight as is anything that is first in a series but from a drinkers perspective this is an exciting whisky from a ‘new’ distillery. It’s not easy by most standards but also not forgettable either. It’s well worth tracking down if you can get it for under £100 as I think it shows the intention of a new distillery to take risks and play the game their way.
‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil’, as they say. Sometimes deservedly so.