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The Elixir Of Leith

Pictures by our friend Matt Butter: @palace.whisky

We've written previously about the history of whisky in Leith. It surrounds us daily, inspires us regularly, and generally occupies our thoughts as we delve into the history books for inspiration. In doing so, we frequently uncover new information about the whisky trade that was once so important to the area, and the blends that comprised it. 

As we were starting to think about creating our own whisky company based here, we started tracking down old blends that had links to or were put together in the area. There's a real trend for sourcing old spirits right now - so it's not a cheap hobby, but these blends offered a window into the past. 
How much of the resulting character was from the blend itself, or 'bottle taint' from the 40-70 years that some of them had spent in bottle is anyone's guess, but we took diligent tasting notes, mediated on overall profiles and impressions - and this 'old school' profile is something we try to keep in mind on a daily basis as we consider what a Woven 'house style' might look like.
Photo:  Matt Butter: @palace.whisky
In summary - we'd politely suggest that blends were not necessarily better back then - but potentially there was less demand for the single malt components they were formed of (there was no real single malt market) so POTENTIALLY there was a little more to them. What's true is that there wasn't such a bad rap for blending as we have now. It was just what happened to whisky. 
Whisky is intrinsically linked to place. Scotch is from Scotland, Single malt comes from one distillery. For ages, everyone talked about regionality - they still do. It's how Scotch sells itself. Terroir, provenance, place. In blending that's less straightforward. Everything we've blended to date is from Scotland - and we could talk about where, the individual distilleries - the broken gate or squeaky weather vane that everyone thought was a ghost. But it might not tell you much about our blend, the vibe of the distillery could change your perception - for good or for bad - and alter your experience of something totally detached from it. 

Blending is about creating something new from the components before you on the table. It's an exercise in flavour. A creative one and a technical one. But we think more than single malt - it is free. Our whole 'Experience Whisky' positioning is based around this freedom to create something that is free from association of the liquid's components. We want blends to free the whisky from the narratives of age, region and location that otherwise define it. Free the drinker to focus on taste and the experience of the whisky in their mouth first and foremost. 
Photo: Matt Butter: @palace.whisky
A Modern Blend, built around our experience of Leith. 
There are new distilleries producing whisky in Leith, and we love them both - but there's no Leith whisky for sale anywhere yet. It will be great when there is. 
But Leith's whisky history was never limited to the whiskies produced in the area - it was always a hub for blending and export. Almost every distillery in Scotland would have had stocks in Leith at some point.
The blenders ruled Leith. 
And so, knowing that ' homegrown whisky from leith' wasn't going to be available to us, we set about making a whisky inspired by Leith. 
We looked at our notes from the myriad of old blends we'd tried, and looked for whiskies that we felt could perhaps offer up similar sensations. But we also talked about our feelings on modern Leith. A diverse, vibrant, creative melting pot. We were not interested in making a historical recreation of anything, nor were we hell bent on making something completely modern. The beauty of Leith is this lovely tension between the old and the new, the history and the contemporary - and this lovely sense of a strong cultural identity to the area that feels somehow timeless. 
Photo:  Matt Butter: @palace.whisky
You can walk around Leith in an afternoon and you'll see a lot. It really is a melting pot, a blend of people and industries, the old and the new. the raw and the gentil. We pondered these juxtapositions, seeking different elements that could represent certain ideas, experiences or quirks of this wonderful neighbourhood - all the while trying to ensure that the resulting profile felt, somehow 'Leith' enough. There's a boldness - an intensity, but at the same time a sense of humour and charm. We wanted this to be an everyday dram that could do everything. Highballs, cocktails, half n half's, neat. 
Photo:  Matt Butter: @palace.whisky
It had to be complex and robust - lively and yet friendly. Have hidden passages, a few contradictions hiding in plain site. It had to work hard when put to the test. 
Experience N.9 is comprised of our 5 Year Old Campbeltown Superblend, lending a rich mouth coating oiliness to things. To this, we added some eye wateringly old grain whisky from the Loch Lomond Distillery, which just happened to be organic but had an incredible bounty of awesome flavours from leather to beeswax, honey and fruit. And wow it was silky. Then, we sourced a smooth, creamy sherry finished cask of Single Malt from the Glentauchers Distillery in Speyside, and rounded things out with some younger, fresher grain whisky, again from Loch Lomond via our friends at Holyrood Distillery in Edinburgh. This keeps things lively and fresh - actually setting up the action later on in the experience beautifully. 
Experience N.9 is one to enjoy however you damn like.
In good company, of course. (we can recommend some great places to drink in Leith here)