kingsbarns coaltown review

Kingsbarns Coaltown (2024)

I’m of the opinion that you either make peated whisky or you don’t. Yet distillers insist on using ex-peated casks to bestow a subtle smokiness to their Scotch whisky. Kingsbarns Coaltown is another such example, a Lowland single malt whisky matured in 100% in ex-peated casks.

Until proven otherwise, I’m not a believer in the use of ex-peated casks. To me, it generally feels like a poor imitation of actual peated whisky. The peat influence is too meek. And that’s coming from someone who actually prefers subtly peated whisky – pretty much over any other style of whisky.

kingsbarns coaltown stylized

Just a few weeks ago, the M&H Elements Peated failed to impress. Slightly longer ago it was the Lochlea Ploughing Edition ‘First Crop’. And there have been other examples as well. Of course, there are always exceptions, but in my experience they are few and far between. Hopefully, Kingsbarns Coaltown can join the short list of exceptions. One advantage is that it fully matured in ex-peated casks. Often we see these casks being used for a (short) finish.

Then there’s this quote from the press release: “By using ex-peated casks, rather than peat drying the barley, we are able to bring through the smoky notes traditionally associated with peated whisky whilst minimising our carbon footprint.” I mean, they’re not wrong. But I can’t help but wonder if this was the initial intention when filling these ex-peated casks, or if it is an example of eco-branding. But, benefit of the doubt.

The story behind the name is a good one, and it makes sense. It’s named after Coaltown of Wemyss, an 1890s-built estate village nearby Wemyss Castle in Fife (the ancestral seat of the family behind Kingsbarns). Coaltown was created to house mineworkers from several coal mines in the area.

kingsbarns coaltown

Kingsbarns Coaltown (46%, OB, 2024)

Nose: Somewhat immature and fairly spirity. There are some floral notes, as well as a touch of lemon zest and some gentle ashes. Then some gentle yeasty whiffs alongside vanilla custard and pot ale.
Taste: Mouthfeel is somewhat creamy. Hints of melted butter, and ripe banana accompanied by some charcoal and white pepper. Also a sliver of ginger and sandalwood.
Finish: Medium. Plenty of lingering oak spices. Somewhat dry at times. Leather too.

Decent enough, but this only confirms my opinion on the use of ex-peated casks. It affects the spirit, but it never really feels like the smoke influence is truly part of the flavour profile. It's almost like an intruder, but a very lethargic one.

Sample provided by Kingsbarns Distillery

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