Kininvie is the lesser known sister distillery to two famous siblings - Balvenie and Glenfiddich. It is located between the two on the same site in the Speyside whisky town of Dufftown. The distillery is owned by William Grant and Sons. They built it in the early 1990s to give greater production capacity to their estate. Kininvie has long been in the shadow of its two older and more illustrious neighbours. But there are now signs that it could emerge as a brand in its own right.
Kininvie has a delicate and fruity style, which is typical of the Speyside region. It is produced and designed as a single malt that is predominantly good for blending. This is what the majority of Kininvie single malt is used for by the owners. The long fermentation time during production gives an extra fruity quality - think of green orchard fruits such as apple and pear, plus subtle hints of tropical fruit.
Within the last decade, William Grant & Sons have also used Kininvie as a centre for experimentation. This has resulted in a number of innovative spirits being produced at the distillery. These are quite different to the traditional Speyside style. They include short production runs of triple distilled malt and spirit made using 89% malted barley and 11% malted rye. Some of these have also been matured in unorthadox cask and barrel types.
The production at Kininvie is slightly unusual. Only the stillhouse officially belongs to the distillery. All other parts of the process take place at Balvenie, which is located nearby. This includes the milling, mashing and fermentation. The mill is the same as that used by Balvenie and Kininvie's large mash tun sits next to Balvenie's. They currently operate at 20 mashes per week.
There are 10 wooden washbacks dedicated to Kininvie's fermentation within Balvenie. These are housed in their own room and are made of Douglas fir. The fermentation is longer than Balvenie's at 75 hours (vs. 68 hours). The wash, the low alcohol liquid produced during fermentation, is then transported over to Kininvie's stillhouse. It is then distilled first through one of the three wash stills and secondly through one of the six spirit stills. The annual capacity of Kininvie is 4.5 million litres.
Kininvie was founded by William Grant & Sons in 1990. It was built to take pressure off Balvenie and Glenfiddich to supply whisky for the blends and blended malts in Grant's portfolio. This allowed Grant's to fully concentrate on growing Balvenie and Glenfiddich as premium single malt brands. The first spirit ran from the stills of Kininvie on June 25, 1990.
The distillery production was increased in 1994 with the addition of three further stills. The single malt produced at Kininvie is used primarily in the popular Grant's range of blended Scotch whiskies and the market-leading blended malt of Monkey Shoulder. The first official bottling of Kininvie single malt was released in 2006. It was named as Hazelwood and was 15 years of age. Hazelwood 17 years old followed a couple of years later.
The first single malt to actually feature the Kininvie name was released in 2013. This was a 23 year old whisky that featured spirit from some of the first distillations in 1990. Various small batches of older age statements were subsequently bottled at 17, 23 and 25 years of age. More recently in 2019 some younger bottlings were released under the experimental Kininvie Works label. This included a 5 year old triple distilled single malt (named KVSM001), a whisky made using a mix of malted rye and malted barley (KVSG002), plus a blend of traditional single malt and the rye and barley spirit (KVSB003).