It’s Not Always Grim Up North

Taste Review #43 – Wolfburn Morven

This bottle was one of a selection of miniatures that I bought at Inverness Airport, and the Wolfburn miniature bottles were really eye-catching. The dark olive green bottle of the Morven and the similarly opaque black bottle of Northland were just begging me to buy them – honest! It was the first time that I’d actually noticed any produce from the Wolfburn distillery, so I seized the chance to buy them. I’ve been staring at the bottles in my box of samples and I’ve finally given in to try one of them.

The Wolfburn distillery is the most northerly distillery on the UK mainland, based in Thurso, up on the northern Caithness coast. According to the distillery website, the original distillery was started in 1821, but according to some records it ceased regular production in the 1850’s, but some records indicate sporadic production in the 1860’s. The 1872 map of the area shows the distillery marked as a ruin, and gone by 1877.

The new distillery was founded in 2012 and started production in early 2013. It is about 350m away from the old distillery and shares the same water source, the Wolf burn. The new distillery sits within a modern industrial estate just to the west of Thurso.

Morven (see credits)

This expression is named after a prominent hill in Caithness called Morven. At 706m, it is one of the hills that is instantly recognisable from a distance. It isn’t that easy getting that far north – the A9 trunk road is not the easiest journey to undertake, and it is probably better to take a train on the far north line. This line shows some of the most amazing scenery in North Scotland, travelling north from Inverness. The train travels through what is known as ‘Flow Country’ which is the largest blanket bog moor in Europe, and has many sites of scientific interest. By taking the train you would also visit Wick, which has the Pulteney distillery, but if you take the car, north of Inverness, you’d be able to visit Glen Ord, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Dornoch, Balblair, Clynelish, Pulteney and Wolfburn. That would be some tour.

Thurso is also close to John O Groats, which is worth a quick visit when the weather is nice, and hadn’t been so commercialised as Lands End.

My last bit of trivia on the area is that Prince George, Duke of Kent, the brother of King George VI, died when the Sunderland flying boat he was a passenger in crashed on a hill close to Morven in August 1942.

Onto the whisky….

Wolfburn Morven




Wolfburn Morven has no age statement


46% abv


Smokey, but not heavily so. Slight aroma of iodine, but nowhere near Ardbeg levels. Fruit – green apples, grapes


Quite smooth. Smoke, medium peat, nutty malt, slightly tannic, peppery oak, slight fruity notes.


Sweet smoke and spice. Oaky with a bit of gingerbread.

The Dram


The whisky was quite pleasant, but quite obviously a young spirit. This expression has been matured in ex-bourbon casks and quarter casks. The smaller quarter casks give more wood contact, and this was evident in the tannic notes. There was in my opinion an obvious wood note where the spirit just has had too long in a quarter cask. The quarter cask is a way of maturing whisky that little bit faster with no artificial trickery, but it seems slightly overdone to me, but by no means overly so and it is still a very good dram.

It is in my opinion quite endemic in the industry where a new distillery is rushing spirit out just to start making a return on the investment. But, also in my opinion, Wolfburn Morven gets away with it. And the 2018 FiftyBest Double Gold award highlights that.

The peat isn’t heavy. It’s probably quite low, about 10-20ppm, so nowhere near as peaty as the peat monsters of the west coast islands, but enough of a bite to tell you it has seen a sod or two of the dark stuff during malting.

Like my last review of Glencadam 10, this is also at 46%, natural colour and unchillfiltered. I’d say the age of the spirit is about 4-5 years old, but this has a pleasant smoothness, is not complex but is well balanced.

I personally hope this distillery does move towards age statements, as this has the potential to be an epic whisky.

Do I recommend? Yes, you should try this if you want to dip your toe into peaty whisky. Will I buy another? Not immediately, but will probably buy a full size bottle.You should definitely keeping an eye on this distillery, as with their first releases, it seems everything is in place to make an epic dram.

Slainte Mhath!


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Photo credits

Morven – The track to Corrichoich and Morven Andrew Tryon under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Other Photos – Authors own

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