Each rule has its exceptions. As a rule, I don’t accumulate whisky. I’ve by no means understood the idea of amassing something however do perceive that many discover it compelling. I significantly don’t perceive folks amassing perishable objects like whisky, however recognize it deteriorates slowly. Significantly, I can’t perceive individuals who accumulate whisky and hold it of their home, within the central heating and direct gentle, as a result of this hastens the deterioration.
I do really feel the distinctive compulsion to ‘accumulate’ in relation to the bottles of Na Bràithrean, or a minimum of, put them apart in best circumstances for future consuming. The model was arrange by mates, Brendan Clark and Andrew Paxton, brothers from one other mom so to talk. The idea is that they are going to take a single cask, often a bourbon cask and put half right into a ending cask, saving the opposite half to be bottled on the similar time. This uncommon idea permits the “uncooked” unadulterated spirit to be tasted unfinished aspect by aspect with the completed bottle.
This idea is an actual boon for whisky fanatics who usually speculate in regards to the high quality of the spirit previous to ending. For me the hook is that with Na Bràithrean unfinished whisky is labelled “Wee Brother” and the completed whisky “Massive Brother.” As a father with two younger lads, the chance to crack open these whiskies within the distant future and talk about our strengths and weaknesses, our successes, and failures, lubricated by a few drams is extremely romantic too me.
That the bottles include fascinating, generally difficult, whisky and a good-looking bottle design is a bonus. I’ve them put apart at nighttime in cellar circumstances in order that they are going to nonetheless be at their greatest when opened. If both of my lads develop into as cantankerous a youngster as I used to be, then maintaining the bottles at arm’s size will negate the prospect that the whisky is progressively swapped out for chilly tea or combined with Purple Bull at a home celebration!
I used to be nosey to be taught extra in regards to the fledgling bottlers, so I received in contact with founder Brendan to search out out extra. As is the Malt means I’ve received my ideas on the latest releases on the finish of the interview. Nick and Bryan and Aberdeen Whisky Store have been nice at serving to me safe these bottles and Nick gave me a pattern of every lately launched bottle from which I base my critiques. I’ve additionally been lucky to have purchased just a few units solely to search out out my spouse has, too, permitting me to take pleasure in an entire bottle and get a very good measure of the entire vary. Though not reviewed right here, the Glencadam Brothers deserve a selected commendation.
Malt: Brendan, you conceived of an organization based mostly on robust idea of brotherhood, however you guys are – a lot to my shock – not truly brothers. How did the thought of utilizing the wee brother huge brother idea come about?
Na Bràithrean: We get the brothers factor quite a bit so we’re used to it. Most individuals will say, “Awh you guys are the brothers?” and I suppose the reply is, sure, we’re Na Bràithrean… simply not brothers! To be trustworthy it’s simply an extension of sister cask concept, which is widespread for casks which might be stuffed subsequent to one another, e.g., cask #1 and cask quantity 2 can be sister casks for his or her full maturation.
As a result of we knew by this level we’d have a number of casks come from one single cask, the chance to have bottles which might be brothers. So, we’d say the idea was born first and the identify adopted. It’s the excellent metaphor for our whisky: brothers come from a mom cask born with similarities however their environment, just like the cask, form them as people.
Malt: Cask ending is a quite common course of utilized by a lot of the giant distillery firms and most impartial bottlers, nevertheless it has an undeservedly detrimental repute. Are you able to clarify why it’s a course of you could have constructed your enterprise round?
Na Bràithrean: “Why” is simple; we wished to face out. So far as we all know, we’re the one impartial bottler who releases two bottles from every cask and permits the drinker to see, odor and style the impact of the wooden and time on our whisky. As for the remainder: we actually simply comply with our nostril and intuition. We all the time attempt the whisky and get some notes down, then simply have enjoyable. We discover what issues we wish to add to the whisky and even features we wish to dampen, then we go choose a cask we expect may do this. Then we wait, style often sufficient to look at the flavour develop, however not an excessive amount of as to disturb it.
Considered one of our bottlings we have now simply tried to recreate a whisky we had tasted earlier than; it didn’t style something prefer it, nevertheless it was great in its personal means. We by no means bottle something we wouldn’t drink ourselves and that’s been a ample high quality examine for us. Our decisions actually pay benefit at tastings the place brothers break up the room; some love the Wee Brother the opposite half love the Massive Brother. That’s what our whisky ought to do and simply exhibits how private style is.
Malt: What ought to the discerning drinker be getting out of consuming these whiskies aspect by aspect? What are your whiskies saying to the drinker?
Na Bràithrean: We wish to present the consequences of time. Not often do you get to attempt a completed whisky earlier than the end. I feel numerous whisky drinkers have a completed dram and (for good or unhealthy) puzzled what was this like earlier than? Nevertheless, this isn’t all the time the case; generally we end each so we are able to present the impact of simply the cask. For instance, what does a PX do to a whisky vs an oloroso cask? Finishes which might be widespread however usually the complexities of vatting, time, and distillery cloud that comparability. With these ones we attempt decreasing the variables and let the casks do the speaking.
Malt: I’ve written many occasions about not amassing whisky, however I’ve made an exception on your releases to date. Clearly it is smart to me to purchase each of every launch as I’ve two younger sons I’d wish to share and talk about your whisky with within the distant future. Do you sometimes discover consumers taking the Wee Brother and Massive Brother as a pair?
Na Bràithrean: It actually varies. Once we do tastings, most individuals have a favorite and snap that one up on the finish as a result of they’ve tasted them each. Considered one of our primary stockists – Aberdeen Whisky Store – solely sells our bottles in pairs, they usually do very well there as a result of Nick is nice at promoting our story, too. In terms of our on-line web site, we have now our clients who purchase each to have side-by-side, however we even have those that love a end, making the Massive Brother the most effective vendor each time. It’s an actual combine, actually, however the Wee Brother undoubtedly does higher at tastings than it does on-line and the Massive Brother does higher on-line most occasions.
Malt: Your earlier releases have had age statements and worth factors in a slender however pleasingly accessible worth bandwidth. Is that this a deliberate place that’s prone to proceed, or do you propose to develop into older whiskies sooner or later?
Na Bràithrean: We determine this on a case-by-case foundation. In the identical means as style, we don’t promote something we wouldn’t purchase which may be difficult and because it’s a aggressive market. We now have plans to develop outturns in the intervening time, however will attempt worth ourselves on this similar space for now.
Malt: The labels have been a noticeable side of your releases, with the easy however intriguing diagrams of the whisky distilleries and a clear and trendy the fashion. Are you able to describe a bit in regards to the improvement of the branding and the latest tweaks?
Na Bràithrean: We love the design we have now now and it’s one thing we see as essential. It wanted to replicate who we’re, which is: comparatively younger whisky drinkers who aren’t caught up about whisky, and the fashionable look fits. The map on the bottle has all the time been an enormous a part of our branding. We wished every launch to look totally different and never shrink back from the origin. To us the map is a nod to the distillery, which is essential to the style of the whisky, so shouldn’t be ignored. We predict we have now branding that appreciates the distillery however is exclusive to us, too.
We’re high quality tuning the details about the whisky that’s offered on the label. Quite a lot of value is within the label and it’s vital we be certain the fee is properly spent. You could possibly spend loopy cash on the labels however we have to ask ourselves, “Does our buyer wish to pay further for this?” As for the cardboard packing containers: we love the packing containers. They had been so properly designed with the intentions of utilizing them without end, however as quickly as we rebranded, regarded on the new bottles within the packing containers, we thought the bottles truly held their very own. We’re seeing how this goes presently. however we don’t anticipate to be ordering extra. Reducing out the packaging can also be good for the surroundings. I feel extra firms are doing the identical.
Malt: How are you discovering the marketplace for casks in the intervening time? How have you ever been acquired as new commers to a really aggressive market?
Na Bràithrean: The cask market is hard as there are numerous cask merchants who simply put their margins on high of others, which inflates costs. We now have good suppliers in order that helps. The trade help has been nice, I feel folks see our concept and recognize what we try to do.
Illustration at retailers was arduous at first, as a result of we launched proper in the beginning of lockdown, so couldn’t promote our story in individual. It’s vital folks perceive the story totally or we’re simply one other two bottles on the shelf. Now it’s okay, as we have now a little bit of a following, however we hope to nonetheless attain additional afield and check out get into extra retailers.
Malt: Lastly, when my sons and I are having fun with a dram of the Glencadam or Caol Ila in 10 to fifteen years’ time, we would look again at this text and replicate. Do you could have any helpful recommendation about brotherly good relations that I can move on to them then?
Na Bràithrean: I undoubtedly really feel too younger and silly to be handing out any recommendation! However I’d say to Lachlan and Murdoch: ensure you have plenty of tales to inform when you could have you drams. Don’t let the reality get in the way in which of a very good story both. In terms of whisky, don’t be scared to say one thing silly. Your dad can be sounding off mad tasting notes and telling you about fermentation occasions and different geeky factor however:
When you don’t know what he’s saying, ask!
When you disagree, disagree!
And if he’s chatting shite, inform him he’s chatting shite!
Malt: that’s very sage recommendation. I think about by the point the lads are sufficiently old for us to quiet down for our first dram collectively each will already be adept at calling me out for speaking shite!
Na Bràithrean Dalmunach Wee Brother – Overview
Bourbon barrel, aged six years. 52% ABV. £65.
Color: Pale straw.
On the nostril: Candy oat porridge with gentle brown sugar, grist, pot ale, white orchard fruits growing with time, sourdough starter.
Within the mouth: Candy, effervescent fruit, midget gems, peppery spirit, dry oak, the fruit is apparently advanced for a six-year-old whisky, ripe pear, melon, candy purple apples. There’s good physique and the end is usually quick for the age, with some recent tobacco notes.
I used to be stunned by this. By far the most effective Dalmunach I’ve had. It’s advanced and really drinkable on the bottling power. I’ve excessive hopes for the distillery output.
Na Bràithrean Dalmunach Massive Brother – Overview
Oloroso quarter cask end aged six years. 50% ABV. £75.
On the nostril: Toasted oats, macadamia nut brittle, highland toffee, date paste, Brûlée, baked apple, candy pasty case, crème caramel, Moffat toffee.
Within the mouth: Wealthy toasted nut and fruity toffee, cask char, caramelised sugar, the advanced fruity notes battle by way of the thick sherry, milk chocolate lined raisins. Peppery and fruity end however the sherry may be very cloying and candy with a definite observe of Tabak Especial Oscuro Cigar.
It is a little a lot end for my palate, an excessive amount of sherry and never sufficient of the fascinating fruits from the Wee Brother however on the similar time nothing mistaken, simply trendy sherry seasoned casks doing their factor.
Na Bràithrean Glenburgie Wee Brother – Overview
Refill bourbon hogshead, aged 10 years. 50% ABV. £70.
Color: Reposado tequila.
On the nostril: Creamy newmake, sharp brambles, grist, stone milled flour, thick milled porridge oats, cherry stones, lemon sherbet, cement mud.
Within the mouth: Tequila blanco, lemon oil, lemoncello, peach schnapps, oat milk, daffodils, dry powdered sizzling chocolate, peppery spirit, barely salty with some fatty biltong and a brief end
Not very simple to get enthusiastic about this one, the whisky is uncooked quite and the cask should have had a tough life previous to being refilled. This will likely simply have sung with one other 15 years in a dunnage warehouse, however we’ll by no means know now.
Na Bràithrean Glenburgie Massive Brother – Overview
Pinot noir ex-Islay end aged 10 years. 50% ABV. £75.
Color: Pale gold.
On the nostril: Smoky un-milled barley, salty Arbroath Smokie, candy macerated strawberries and forest fruits combined berries. Rumtopf even. A pinch of floor cinnamon, porridge oats, crushed limestone.
Within the mouth: meaty, oily and salty, then candy, smoked haddock, kabanos, fruit chutney, oatcakes, strawberry with cracked black pepper, candy and bitter peppery end, dry bladderwrack.
Here’s a end working very arduous to take an underperforming spirit from the unique cask and vastly improve it. It’s not an iconic Glenburgie, however it’s actually 100% distinctive. It’s an expertise for the senses however not in a universally pleasing means.
I don’t suppose these releases will finish the talk over ending a technique or one other, nor will they make whisky of the yr. They’re, although, essentially the most fascinating whiskies, and definitely server their objective as automobiles for discussions sooner or later. They may little doubt ignite fascinating debate at whisky tastings. A pair will make a unbelievable present for the whisky geek who has the whole lot. These releases are crying out to be opened and shared between whisky followers. From that perspective you possibly can simply add some extent to every of the scores above, which might push these into protected whisky floor. I’ll actually proceed to maintain an eye fixed out for future releases.
Readers may discover a assessment of the Na Bràithrean Caol Ila Brothers over on Dramface.
Pictures from Na Bràithrean and authors’ personal.