GreatDrams attends the launch of #Kininvie25 “The First Drops”

let’s begin

There’s a fascination around any Kininvie release, so when I was invited to the launch of not one but two new Kininvie releases who was I to say no?

I was in good company too, legends such as Ian Buxton, Colin Hampden-White, Becky Paskin and Karen Taylor were amongst attendees.

We did not have much time to chitchat as it was straight down to the business of tasting five exquisite Kininvie releases, including one that ‘will never be released’ – although judging by the reception it received by all of us, I would not be surprised if it made it into a bottle somewhere, sometime.

Dubbed ‘the most reclusive distillery in Scotland’, only trade and press are allowed to visit and no photos are allowed to be taken. My only visit to this ‘elite distillery’ thus far was more or less by accident whilst visiting the Glenfiddich distillery just under two years ago.

The Kininvie distillery opened in 1990 by Janet Sheed Roberts – who was the last remaining granddaughter of William Grant – has, to this day, remained largely a family secret. The first Single Malt Scotch Whisky from the distillery to bear the Kininvie name was launched as a 23YO exclusively in Taiwan in 2013 followed by the UK and Nordics in 2014 with Batch 2.

In the press release, Craig Cranmer, the Kininvie’s distillery manager, commented:

Kininvie is something of a hidden gem, we have cherished and nurtured the casks for 25 years knowing they contained incredible whisky. Now the time is right to share the first drops of our history, straight from the casks where they have been maturing since the distillery’s first days.”

On Saturday 4th July this year, twenty five years to the day, William Grant & Sons marked the Kininvie distillery’s 25th Anniversary by disgorging only three casks that were filled and laid down on the distillery’s very first day on 4th of July, 1990. This treasured liquid has gone into creating the highly anticipated Special Release #1 that was released last week.

Three casks have been bottled, numbers 8 (going to Taiwan), 20 (going to Germany) and 21 (going to the UK) and the interesting thing here is that the Grant family typically keep the first forty casks of every new distillery’s first run as family heirlooms but in this case have released some of the lower numbers.

The bottle will be priced at £400 per 35cl which is quite a bold price for the bottle size, although I understand the viewpoint of William Grant & Sons.

They were refreshingly honest about their approach to pricing and the secondary market, detailing out the commercial reasons for the pricing with a lovely line; “there is a sense of good things come in small packages, these are precious little things.”

My honest opinion? I think its expensive for the age but when you factor in the story, the elite nature of this distillery and the single cask nature I am tempted… I just hope some of the bottles get opened and enjoyed, not just bought for investing and whatnot.

Tasting notes

Dram one – Kininvie 17 Year Old Batch One

Travel Retail Exclusive

£75 per 35cl bottle

Nose: Very floral, summer fruits, nice and rounded

Palate: Spices come out in force, quite bitter, dried fruits, quite a thick mouthfeel

Dram two – Kininvie 1990 Single Cask 23 Year Old

First Fill Sherry

Not for retail, only deconstruction tastings


This was just delightful, everyone in the room was purring when we started nosing this whisky, really enjoyable, immense. Lots of spice, Christmas cake-like yet erratic on the palate. Great fun.

Dram three – Kininvie 23 Batch Two

11,000 bottles released

£97 when released, secondary market reached around £300


Being fortunate enough to own a couple of these, I was very excited to try it again in this setting, I got lots of fresh green apples and hints of sherry, there’s a sweetness there on the nose too. The palate opened up to be more about oak than the sweetness experienced on the nose, quite light and delicate.

Dram four – Kininvie 23 Batch Three


£120 when released

Very sweet, big colour difference despite being the only one year apart, sherry influence is strong yet oak and honey shine through again. Very nice.

Dram five – Kininvie 25 Year Old Special Release #1

Kininvie Special Release #1 ‘The First Drops’ has been matured in hogshead bourbon casks since 1990, and is bottled at 61.4% ABV as noted above.

The taste is not the signature Kininvie we have all been getting used to, the nose brings fresh fruit again with a very light character and the palate delivers a welcoming punch of rich oak, fruit all with a very dry finish. Nice.

Tags: distileryGreatDramsKininvie25ScotlandThe First Drops


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

You might be interested in

More from the blog

Leave a comment

Login / register