What is new make whisky?

What is new make whisky?

Whisky is what happens when you put new make into a barrel and wait. If it’s scotch, that means taking new make and putting into an oak barrel for at least three years. But what is new make whisky?

New make is the clear spirit that comes off the still. It’s usually 68% alcohol and has aromatic characteristics. A lot of whisky’s flavour, and all its colour, comes from the wood. But the new make flavour itself has an impact on the whisky. Peat, for example, is a flavour the whisky gets from the new make. Sure, a whisky might go into a cask that used to have a peaty whisky and pick up some peat notes. But the primary way peat flavour gets into whisky is through the new make.

Changing whisky perceptions

For a long time, the only people who drank new make were people in the distilleries. Maybe the odd bottle ended up in someone’s kitchen. But that was for cleaning purposes only. Of course. 

People thought the spirit was only worth drinking after it had been in a barrel for a few years. The new make, straight off the still, was too harsh to be pleasant. At least, that’s what some believed. Now there is growing interest and appreciation for new make. A lot of this attention comes from geeks, who tried it for the first time on distillery tours.

Drinking new make spirit

Drinking new make is a brilliant way to taste the DNA of a distillery. Maturation changes a whisky’s flavour. So, you can sometimes appreciate a distillery’s character by trying their new make. New make also gives a hint about what a younger whisky might grow into later. 

A lot of new distilleries sell their new make. There is a practical reason, of course. New make gives them a spirit to sell. Otherwise, distilleries need to wait years before they can start selling whisky. With so many new distilleries opening every year, this explains why there is a lot of interest in new make. 

Is it worth buying?

There are a few reasons to consider buying new make.

  1. It can be a nice thing to do. Starting a new distillery is a massive financial investment. Buying new make from a brand-new distillery is a great way to support a new business. It also gives you an idea about how their whisky might taste in the future. If you’re in London, you should head over to The Bimber Distillery. Their new make is out of this world!  
  1. It can expand your whisky education. Buying new make from a distillery you know can give you insights into their flavour profile. This is particularly true for distilleries that have a lot of different cask finishes. You can do a side by side comparison between the new make and some of the other expressions. Highland Park is great for this, and you can get their new make here
  1. It’s tasty. Okay, maybe this should have been the first reason. New make can be delicious. But you don’t have to take my word for it, go and try Milk & Honey’s new make here

People who worked in distilleries used to be the only people who drank new make. Now, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on it. I think that’s a great thing. When I go to a whisky tasting, and they have a new make, it is always the highlight for me.

For more information about whether new make might be a new category in the spirits world, read Joe Rogers’ article on ScotchWhisky.com. 

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