For as several distilleries as there are in Scotland in 2019, there are nonetheless horrid swaths of countryside void of distillation. You may well feel the Outer Hebrides, the Shetland Islands, or smaller isles like Raasay may well be such deserts of distillation, but you’d be incorrect on all accounts. Alternatively, it is spot like the Northwest Highlands and, most shocking of all, Angus in the heart of Scotland exactly where 1 struggles to uncover an oasis. This changed for Angus in 2015 when Arbikie distillery opened on a farm close to Arbroath.
I caught wind of Arbikie for the duration of my week distilling at Strathearn in early 2017. My pal Jeff and I toured Tullibardine distillery prior to our function week, and there we occurred to run into Christian Perez-Solar, none other than the man who helped kickstart Strathearn with Tony Reeman-Clark. Christian had moved more than to Arbikie distillery exactly where he was conducting curious experiments on a new single-estate distillery, and I took his card and promised to get in touch down the road.
The road ultimately led to Arbikie for the duration of my exploration of eastern Scotland final year.
It is not the easiest spot to uncover.
I performed a couple of loops on Angus farm roads, the coast hovering just to the east, prior to I tentatively pulled into a cluster of homes and farm buildings, straining to see some signifier that this the oasis I sought. As luck would have it, Christian was walking toward me, empty coffee mug in hand, heading to his residence for a refill (speak about a quick commute). Fueled up on coffee we trudged across the cracked asphalt mercy to the day’s wild winds and ducked into a farm shed the size of an aircraft hangar.
Christian is the friendliest. Initially from Chile and with a background in wine, he came to Scotland to pursue distilling. Possibly this does not come as a surprise, but there are not a lot of winemaker-to-distillers in Scotland, and as Christian led me about Arbikie’s facility I speedily came to deeply appreciate his vintner background. His eyes lit up as he pontificated on the qualities of yeast and mashing on skins.
Arbikie is a single-estate distillery. They develop all of the solutions they distill. That is impressive and totally one of a kind in Scotland. Arbikie was founded by the Stirling family members in 2013. Especially, brothers Iain, John, and David are the concept guys behind the distillery, which stands on the family members farm. They hired Kirsty Black as their master distiller and brought Christian on as yet another distiller and production manager. Collectively the group aims to create a portfolio of spirits totally sourced and created on their estate.
There’s some thing extremely romantic about becoming a self-adequate distillery. In reality, quickly (if not currently) they’ll even take to malting the barley grown on the farm, thereby closing the circle on the production course of action.
Christian has me smelling mountains of barley and troughs of potatoes — potato vodka is the base spirit for 1 of their gins — as we wander amongst Tio Pepe Matusalem barrels aging rye whisky and single malt. Yes, Arbikie has rye whisky almost prepared when I visited, and as of this writing they are initial Scottish distillery to have created rye whisky in 100 years! In reality, it is viewed as a grain whisky mainly because there are not even laws about what constitutes Scotch rye whisky. This is not the initial instance of Arbikie’s maverick strategy to distilling.
Christian tells me the whisky is laying down for a minimum of 14 years. FOURTEEN YEARS! Suffice it to say it is good to have capital.
Arbikie’s stillhouse, which appears out to the Angus coast, is the distiller’s version of a mad scientist’s laboratory. Christian Carl pot stills from Germany anchor 1 corner whilst a huge column nonetheless reaches to the house’s lofty ceiling in the center of the space. Steel washbacks, a mash tun, pumps, hoses, a de-methylizer, and other gear I’ve never ever noticed prior to cluster about a rustic bar exactly where Arbikie’s existing offerings stand by a tidy box filled with botanicals like Hebridean seaweed, orris root, and angelica root.
Christian walks me about the space spitting out information and figures about their distillation processes. He’s got all the numbers and the science to back it up. I get a taste of Kirsty’s Gin with its potato vodka base and AK’s Gin with smoked cardamom, mace, and honey. Each go down very smooth and scrumptious, but I want to speak about whisky.
Arbikie is classified as a Highland distillery, and whilst some baggage may well come with that in terms of style, Arbikie appears to as soon as once more be carrying out factors their personal way. A 96-hour fermentation is certain to lead to a spirit with some fruity tones, and Christian goes on to describe the newmake as containing notes of orange peels and toasted pecans. Sounds great. As well terrible I’ll virtually be 50 when it is prepared.
They have a strategy at Arbikie, even though. When that rye whiskey is prepared, they’ll fill the bottles and then place newmake single malt into ex-Scottish rye barrels. Not only are they expanding and sowing all of their base supplies, they’re also seasoning their personal barrels.
My head is spinning a small bit as Christian sells me on the concept of terroir in whisky (yet another concept borrowed from wine). Arbikie has the chance to attempt and make this function — he even desires to attempt wild fermentations. I hear about varietal whiskies and quickly wine and whisky are on the exact same continuum and I’m pondering “why wouldn’t this function?” as I appear about the mad scientists’s lab.
The Arbikie lads and lasses are carrying out some thing main right here. This is a ride you do not want to miss.
Disclosure: Christian is a pal and he showed me about Arbikie out of generosity. All thoughts and opinions expressed right here, as generally, are my personal.