Water of Life – Annandale Distillery
Having effectively started its operations in 1830, Annandale Distillery is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland – shame on me that it had not been on my radar so far, especially since the revamp and restoration of the distillery in 2007 saw the eventual release not only of unpeated but also peated varieties with its tribute to the seventh Earl of Annandale, i.e. the Man o’Words / Man o’Sword ranges to honour Robert the Bruce.
Annandale Man o’Words portfolio is comprised of a range of expressions that have been matured in either different single casks or a combination of carefully selected ones.
As the sherry expression indicated, the Lowland Man O' Words’ was matured in a single Oloroso sherry butt and upon uncorking, the fresh zestyness is almost overwhelming in the most beautiful manner as cherries, nutty nuances, vanilla and apple flavours dance on a foundation of pine.
The fruity appeal that enticed the nose is continued on the top of the roof with a salty peatiness and a subtle smoke being married with dried pears, apple cider, sweet grapefruits and a malty backbone that is perforated by highlights of spicy pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, while being enhanced by a woody oakyness.
Specifically the peppery nuances make the elegant, elongated finish exciting as an earthy maltiness grounds and bookends the meandering between peaty, nutty and sweet territory. Lip smackingly impressive!
An interesting specimen is Annandale’s New Make, i.e. the Rascally Liquor Malt, which comes in peated and unpeated variants and illustrates the development and evolution to what eventually is refined to enter the Man o’Words / o’Sword ranges.
I am not usually the biggest fan of New Make, but I’d get used to sipping Annandale’s as the wight peppery aromas and flavours that are accentuated by lime, honey and peat, are much more complex than what I would have expected. Given the quality and complexity of the New Make, it adds depth, perspective and dimension to Annandale’s core range and made me revisit the Man o’Word with a new lens only to discover more subtle nuances.
Annandale’s Nation of Scots is – as the name suggests – somewhat of a big and bold flagship expression. Not unlike with Man o’Word where they proudly honour their Scottish heritage, the Nation of Scots expression is an homage to a triumvirate of Scottish heroes and luminaries, i.e. William Wallace, Alexander Graham Bell and Walter Scott with the underlying idea being to translate the characteristics of each of the protagonists into their whisky.
As the premise is that of a melange of characteristics to create a whole that is bigger than the mere sum of its constituents, it should not come as a surprise that the Nation of Scots is a blended variety.
Aroma-wise, we are greeted by vanilla and wafts of mouth-watering smoke and peat that are framed by apricots, apples and toffee notes.
The Nation unveils its characteristics fully on the top of the mouth as not only the woody smokiness is unleashed but enters dialogues with spicy barley and sweet highlights reminiscent of breakfast cereal.
The smokiness transcends all the way to the medium-length finish, which is beautifully perforated by lingering peppery highlights.
With what I have been able to sample so far, Annandale has instantaneously catapulted itself amongst my favourite newer distilleries and once travel restrictions are lifted, will warrant a visit to the source to explore their expressions further.