Kininvie is a small Speyside distillery wedged on a small spot near the more visible Balvenie distillery. It was established in 1990 to provide additional malt content for its owners William Grant & Sons with their popular range of Grant’s blended scotches. For many years its presence was a mystery to whisky enthusiasts, as it maintained a low profile and still doesn’t officially offer tours, but often visitors to Balvenie will be taken into the single building where its stills await.
Kininvie is arguably a modern equivalent of a second distillery on the same site. A good example of this is Caperdonich that started life as Glen Grant number 2 before legislation in the UK prompted a name change in the 1970’s. No longer according to UK law could 2 distilleries have the same name and each had to maintain their own identity. Kininvie is mainly just a computerised still house as it utilises a mashtun of its own within Balvenie and its 10 washbacks are again located within its larger neighbour. One could argue that Kininvie is just a separate still house and nothing more, never mind an actual distillery. However, the character of its whisky is distinctly different than its brethren at Balvenie and Glenfiddich and should be viewed as a separate entity.
From an ownership viewpoint, its establishment made sense as William Grant & Sons’ main malt operation is across this Dufftown site. Kininvie could take advantage of the warehousing, malting, cooperage and other necessities of distillation. This did not prevent Kininvie from being closed in 2010, when William Grant & Sons established the more modern and adaptable distillery in 2007. This was in the form of Ailsa Bay distillery within their Girvan complex in Ayrshire and it produces a variety of malt styles rather than a specific Speyside style that Kininvie has become known for.
As demand continued to soar for whisky and in particular the popularity of the Monkey Shoulder blended malt, these plans had to be revisited and in 2012 Kininvie sprung back into life but with the presence of Ailsa Bay, it was able to finally start a new chapter in its history with a single malt release. Technically, enthusiasts may point to a Hazelwood release in 2006 as a 15-year-old as the debut release form Kininvie but it did not officially carry the distillery name. This honour arrived in 2013 with a 23-year-old Kininvie exclusively released for Taiwan, which soon prompted a stampede for a taste of this rarely seen malt. Subsequent batch releases arrived in 2014 and 2015, again as 23-year-old expressions before in 2015 a trio of older single cask releases hit the market. 2015 also saw the release of Kininvie into global markets rather than just travel retail as a 17-year-old, which is now the most commonly seen bottling.
The buzz may have somewhat diminished around Kininvie nowadays, but it continues to support the Grants blends and Monkey Shoulder whilst seeking to build upon the positive reception to its single malts. The only constant criticism surrounded the size of the Kininvie bottles which were half the standard UK 70cl size, being just 35cl and still retailing for £125 at travel retail.
In 1994 Kininvie doubled its number of stills to today’s total of 6 and it has a sizeable annual capacity of just under 5 million litres; more than several other Speyside distilleries. The whisky itself has a cereal based aroma with plenty of fruits present and more spices on the palate with marzipan, nutmeg, vanilla and a floral flourish. It’s a stylish and tasteful single malt full of Speyside promise.