Whisky Distilleries

Welcome to the Exotic James Sedgwick Distillery

Whisky drinkers who are willing to explore outside of Scotland often find themselves on the shores of Australia and Japan to sample renowned world whiskies. We seldom see these whisky hunters landing in South Africa to look for the same things. Not many people know about James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, S.A – the home to Three Ships and Bain’s Cape Mountain Grain Whisky.

It is interesting to note that James Sedgwick Distillery is the only commercial distillery in South Africa and their products have won awards after awards in the international scene. The only unfortunate thing for many whisky drinkers in Southeast Asia is the fact that James Sedgwick distillery is selective in their distribution channels due to their limited stocks.

We are lucky in Singapore; our first whisky bar – Quaich Bar – has forged a close relationship with Distell, the company managing James Sedgwick distillery. Therefore, we are one of the first South-East Asian countries to get our hands on their exceptional whiskies.

Before we dive too far off the topic, let us go back to the distillery and explore the origins of this 131-year-old distillery.

History of James Sedgwick Distillery (JSD)

James Sedgwick, a former sea captain, founded a company called the J. Sedgwick & Co. which dealt with liquor, cigar and tobacco in 1850. After his death in 1870, two of his sons, Charles and Alfred, took over and expanded the business. They founded JSD in 1886 at Wellington, S.A. and named the distillery after their father. The distillery sat on the banks of the River Berg but did not begin its life as a whisky distillery until much later.

JSD started its life as a commercial whisky distillery in 1990 when they relocated the production of Three Ships to JSD. The move also coincided with the appointment of the 6th distillery manager – Andy Watts. Andy learned the art of whisky-making in Scotland and had perfected his skills for many years before coming to work with JSD. His skills, experience and knowledge have contributed to the success of JSD.

Innovation and Improvement in James Sedgwick Distillery

The last 26 years see significant innovation and improvement of the distillery. In an attempt to ensure that the distillery is environmentally friendly, the leaders have set upon a journey since 1991 to reduce the carbon footprint of the distillery. In an extensive overhaul, the distillery replaces their old stills with new copper stills made by Forsyth’s of Scotland and also installs a new high-tech control room to support their skills and craftsmanship.

The leaders also converted the marshland next to the distillery into a dam to ensure a consistent water supply for whisky-making. Such innovative and imaginative solutions to their problem is one of JSD’s most significant achievements. It is no wonder that Whisky Magazine recognised their efforts to use innovative technology to preserve the wildlife and environment around them by awarding them with the “Whisky Brand Innovator of the Year” in 2011. The distillery also won the title of “World Best Distillery (world)” in the World Whisky Awards 2015.

JSD is the pioneer in whisky-making in South Africa and has brought about many firsts to the shores of Wellington, S.A. For example, Three Ships finished their 15-year-old whisky in pinotage casks, the first in the world.

Whisky Produced in JSD

JSD produces two brands of whiskies – Three Ships Single Malt/Blended Whisky and Bain Single Grain Whisky. Both names receive various awards over the years and are some of the best whiskies in the world.

Three Ships

Three Ships has a range of five different whiskies. One of them is a single malt, while the others are blended. Almost all of them have won awards in various international whiskies competition.

Three Ships Select Whisky

The Three Ship Select Whisky is launched in 1977 and has served the whisky community in the past 40 years. It is a blend of malt and grain whiskies. The high quality blended whisky has won the hearts of many whisky drinkers with its taste profile. It is an excellent dram for both whisky lovers and casual drinkers.

Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish

JSD launched Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish in 2005. It holds the title as the first 100% South African blended whisky as the distillery made both the malt and grain whiskies on the home ground. JSD also matured the whisky within its warehouses. The Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish is a great catch for the ladies, with its vanilla sweetness and honeyed notes.

Three Ships 5-Year-Old

The Three Ships 5-Year-Old is another blended whisky made by JSD and launched in 1991. This malt used in this blend contains heavily peated malted barley. When the malt and grain are mixed to form the 5-year-old whisky, the peatiness of the malt reduced into a pleasant smoke. It is also well-received among ladies.

Three Ships 10-Year-Old Single Malt

The Three Ships 10-Year-Old is launched in 2015 after maturing the liquid for ten years. Distilled in 2005, this is the first single malt whisky to carry a vintage statement. Made from peated barley, this whisky is slightly smokier when compared to the 5-year-old blend.

Three Ship 15-year-old Pinotage Cask Finish

The Three Ship 15-year-old Pinotage Cask Finish is the first whisky in the world (and of course South Africa) to finish in a Pinotage cask. The Pinotage is a distinctive South African wine created in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold. This whisky is also the oldest whisky released by Three Ships to date, crafted by their #6 Master Distiller, Andy Watts. This rich and complex whisky reflects the unique heritage of South Africa.

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky

The Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky shares its home with Three Ships in the JSD. The single grain whisky pays homage to the man, Andrew Geddes Bain, who built the Bainkloof Pass to connect Wellington to the interior of the country in 1853. The whisky is distilled from corn (yellow maize) and double matured in two batches of first-filled bourbon casks.

James Sedgwick Distillery Today

JSD continues to be a pioneer in South African whisky and contributes significantly to the world of whisky. Andy Watts is now the head of the entire Distell whisky portfolio, which includes single malts – Bunnahabhain, Deanston & Tobermory – as well as blends – Black Bottle and Scottish Leader. Jeff Green is replacing Andy Watts as the master distiller at JSD after shadowing Andy for the past six years. His efforts to learn has paid off, and we look forward to more great whiskies from JSD!

 

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Speyburn – A distillery built for the Queen

Previously, we have spoken about a distillery that was once a favourite of the King of Scotland. Now, we will talk about a distillery that was built for a Queen – Queen Victoria of United Kingdom, to be exact. The Speyburn distillery is located in the heart of Speyside, right in the glen near to Granty Burn – one of the major tributaries of the River Spey.

History of Speyburn

John Hopkins & Company founded Speyburn distillery in 1897 after Hopkins discovered the site of Granty Burn. He knew that the untouched nature and the refreshing waters of Granty Burn were perfect for a distillery. Going with his instincts, Hopkins built the distillery in the glen, using stones from the river.

Hopkins appointed the famous architect, Charles Doig to design the distillery and, to this day, Speyburn sports the classic pagoda ventilator, a trademark of Doig’s design.

John Hopkins had built the distillery as a commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Hopkins was determined to run the first spirit before the end of 1897. When the stills became operational, the distillery had no doors or windows. Therefore, the distillery men worked in overcoats and mufflers to battle against the bitter cold to run the first distillate on 15 December when the distillery’s construction delayed. For the next two weeks, the men worked in terrible conditions as snowstorms raged around them. Their hard work finally paid off, and they produced and bonded one butt that bore the year 1897 on December 31, 1897.

120 Years of Speyside Experience

Speyburn has been in operation since Hopkins first built it in 1897. After 120 years, the distillery is well-known for its bold and bright whiskies. Speyburn whiskies are pure but full of character, symbolising the speciality of Speyside. Their core range of whiskies is a symbol of what Speyside can offer. Often, you can hear people saying, “Speyburn is Speyside”.

Currently, Speyburn is owned by Inver House Distillers Limited. With only one wash still and one spirit still, the distillery produces 1 million litres of alcohol annually.

Speyburn Whisky

Speyburn has three different bottles for their core range. They are the Bradan Orach Single Malt, the Speyburn 10-year-old and the Speyburn 15-year-old.

Bradan Orach Single Malt

The Bradan Orach Single Malt is a NAS expression that is a classic, welcoming Speyside Whisky. It is matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks and named after the world-class salmon fishing found on the River Spey. In fact, “Braden Orach” means “Golden Salmon” in Gaelic.

Speyburn 10-year-old Single Malt

The Speyburn 10-year-old single malt is another classic expression of the Speyburn range. Matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry American oak casks, it is sweet and refreshing as a typical Speyside single malt.

Speyburn 15-year-old Single Malt

The Speyburn 15-year-old single malt is a bold expression that embraces the precious elements of Speyside. It is matured in both American and Spanish oak casks for 15 years before bottling. The vibrant nature of this liquid has endeared itself to many whisky drinkers around the world.

Besides the three whiskies above, Speyburn has another expression – the Arranta Casks Single Malt.

The Gaelic word meaning “intrepid and daring” inspired the Arranta Cask Single Malt. The spicy whisky is matured in specially selected first-fill bourbon American oak casks. The bold and flavourful character of the whisky earns an “A-star” from the distillery Manager as a seal of approval.

Kilchoman – Islay’s First Farm Distillery

 

Picture Credits: Kilchomandistillery.com

Kilchoman is one of the newest distilleries to be built on Islay in 124 years. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman chose Islay because of its reputation for producing exceptional malt whiskies. Kilchoman is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing 120,000 litres of alcohol annually.

History of Kilchoman Distillery

Picture Credits: www.kilchomandistillery.com

Anthony Wills founded Kilchoman in 2005, after running an independent single cask bottling company for eight years. The first distillate of Kilchoman ran in December 2005, and the first cask sealed on 14 December 2005. Anthony noted the interest in limited release single malt whiskies growing from the 1990s through his independent bottling company. He wanted to begin a distillery to cater to the growing demand, but he wanted his distillery to be different. Choosing Islay wasn’t difficult because of his family roots, the fertile land and the plentiful water and peat for drying the malt. Kilchoman is the ultimate farm distillery where Anthony “takes whisky back to its roots”. Whisky distillation mainly began as illegal operations on farms back in the 1700s and 1800s, so “taking whisky back to its roots” means that Kilchoman mirrors the beginning of whisky distillation.

Building the Kilchoman Distillery

Rockside Farm is selected because it grows the best malting barley on the island. The buildings on the farmland are also perfect for a distillery. Nonetheless, the real challenge was raising funds for the distillery. Anthony raised £1 million from private individuals, the local board and bank. These individuals and enterprises rose to the challenge when the distillery needed a further £3.5 million in the early years of the distillery. Kilchoman’s success is a direct reflection of the passion and dedication of these people in the community.

The Whisky-making Process

The exciting video above explains the whisky-making process at Kilchoman distillery. From barley to bottle, Kilchoman did it all.

The Whisky from Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman distillery has an impressive range of whiskies despite its relatively young age. Many of their whiskies have won awards, including their flagship Machir Bay, which we have reviewed. Two other note-worthy bottles are the Kilchoman 8-year-old, which we found to be excellent and sophisticated, as well as the Kilchoman Single Cask.

Kilchoman Distillery Moving Forward

We believe that Kilchoman will grow bigger and better in the years to come. The young whiskies from this distillery have been a pleasant surprise to the whisky community; so we believe that the older ones that are to come will be satisfying too!

 

The Historic Balmenach Distillery

Picture Credits: www.pinterest.com

The Balmenach distillery is one of the earliest distilleries in Speyside. Located at the bottom of the Haughs of Cromdale in the Spey valley, it sits on the historic site of the defeat of the Jacobite uprising in April 1690. It was in these hills that dragoon guards ambushed an army of Jacobite soldiers on 30th April 1690 during their sleep. They killed many Jacobite soldiers and chased the rest into defeat.

History of the Balmenach Distillery

In the early 1800s, the McGregor brothers set up a farm in these areas. One of them, James McGregor, also set up a secret still on the site. James obtained a license for his distilling operation in 1824 and formally set up the Balmenach distillery. The McGregor family owned and operated the distillery until 1922 when DCL bought it. Balmenach distillery continued to run smoothly until 1993. UDV decided to mothball the distillery in 1993, and for the next five years, the distillery lay silent.

In 1998, Inver House Distillers bought the Balmenach distillery and reopened the distillery. The first distillate of Balmenach flowed in March 1998 under the watchful eyes of Inver House’s master blender.

Operations at the Balmenach Distillery

Balmenach distillery uses traditional machinery and methods used in the olden days. The distillery uses a cast iron mash tun which mashes around eight tonnes of barley every seven and a half hours. The wash is then fermented in six Douglas fir washbacks for at least fifty hours before it is ready for distillation.

The stillhouse of Balmenach has three wash stills and three spirit stills. The total capacity of these stills is around two million litres of whisky a year. The spirit travels through a worm tub before entering one of the two spirit safes in the stillhouse. After that, it transfers into a spirit vat. Finally, the spirit goes in oak casks before getting transported to the warehouses where they mature.

Single Malts at Balmenach Distillery

Balmenach is still maturing their single malts in the warehouse. Despite rumours that said Balmenach would soon launch their official single malts bottling, our chat with Master Blender, Stuart Harvey, proved otherwise. Stuart shared that it will be some time yet before the world gets a treat from Balmenach’s official single malts bottling. Nonetheless, you can find fantastic Balmenach single malts by independent bottlers such as the one from The Single Cask that we had some time ago.

The Distillery Today

The distillery is producing both whisky and gin today. Balmenach distillery produced Caoruun Gin, Inver House Distillers’ premium gin. Five Celtic botanicals found in the surrounding hills of the Balmenach distillery go into Caoruun Gin. Handcrafted and distilled in small batches, Caoruun Gin’s quality is tightly controlled by Gin Master, Simon Buley.

The whisky produced at Balmenach continues to define this historic distillery that honours the traditional methods of production. We look forward to the day when we get to taste the first official bottling of Balmenach Single Malts.

 

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Explore the Viking Souls of Highland Park

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park Distillery is located in Kirkwall, Orkney. Known as the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland, its history is shrouded in mystery as to who the actual founder was.

Orkney, the Land of the Vikings

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Historically, a succession of Viking Earls ruled Orkney from 800AD to 1468. The group of 70 islands swept into the embrace of the Vikings in the early 9th century and remained so until 1468. King Christian I of Norway and Denmark gifted the islands to Scotland as part of Princess Margaret’s dowry for her marriage to James III, King of Scotland in 1468. While it ended the Viking’s rule over Orkney, the roots of the Vikings continue to influence the people till today. The Vikings who had settled on the islands become part of the Orcadians. The descendants of the Vikings are proud of their heritage, and live to bring glory and honour to their Viking roots.

History of Highland Park Distillery

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

In official records, a priest by the name of Magnus Eunson first distilled whisky on the site of Highland Park Distillery in the 1790s. He was a respectable member of the Orcadian society as well as a priest. He ran an illicit whisky trader at night and legends had it that he hid the whisky under the pulpit in his church. When excise men eventually caught up with him in 1798, charges against him were dropped mysteriously after a short time. Eunson escaped justice.

David Robertson officially founded Highland Park Distillery in 1798. He bought the High Park estate and built Highland Park Distillery. After running the distillery for a few years, he sold it to a syndicate in 1816. Interestingly, the syndicate included Eunson’s arresting officer, John Robertson and another former exciseman, Robert Pringle. The syndicate built up the distillery in 1818 and the current premises dated back to those eras.

William Stuart (who owns Miltonduff) bought Highland Park Distillery in the 1870s. It finally stabilised under his care and in 1885, James Grant (previously the manager of Glenlivet) joined Stuart as his business partner. Grant took full control of the distillery in 1895 who proceeded to expand the distillery and built up a great relationship with Robertson & Baxter (R&B).

In 1937, Highland Distillers (who had shares in R&B) took over Highland Park Distillery. Highland Distillers was the owners until the turn of the century, where they became the object of take-over. Edrington Group acquired Highland Distillers and Highland Park was taken into the folds of the Edrington Group. Since then, Edrington Group makes efforts to uphold Highland Park Distillery as a distinctive whisky maker. Today, Highland Park is the only Island distillery in the Edrington Group profile.

Highland Park Whisky-Making Process

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park builds its whisky-making process on 5 keystones of production. They are proud of their traditions because no other distilleries use all five keystones.

Keystone 1: Aromatic Peat

Highland Park recognises the importance of peat in their whisky-making process. They obtained their peat from Hobbister Moor, located 7 miles from the distillery. Hobbister Moor has no trees, as Orkney does not have a conducive environment. As a result, the 9,000 years old peat used by Highland Park is rich in heather.

Keystone 2: Hand Turned Floor Malting

Hand-turning the malt by hand is a labour intensive method that many distilleries no longer employ. At Highland Park, they take pride to hand turn their malt because they believe in the traditional process when producing the distinctive aromatic smokiness of their whiskies. Highland Park turns their barley by hand every 8 hours, 7 days a week. The turning maintains a constant airflow and the right amount of moisture to fully absorb the intense smoke from the peat.

Keystone 3: Sherry Oak Casks

Highland Park is obsessed with their casks. The staves are cut from American and European oaks before shipping to Jerez in Southern Spain. These staves are made into casks and filled with Oloroso sherry. After a minimum of 2 years maturation, these casks are emptied and shipped back to Orkney. Highland Park uses these casks to fill their whiskies for maturation.

Keystone 4: Cool Maturation

Highland Park is in a perfect location for whisky maturation. Orkney has a temperate temperature, reaching highs of 16°C in summer and lows of around 2°C in winter. Therefore, the maturation of their whiskies takes place in a long, cool and evenly paced environment.

Keystone 5: Cask Harmonisation

Cask harmonisation is crucial in creating a balanced whisky. Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, makes sure that every release of Highland Park has the chance to rest in their vatting tun for at least a month before bottling. The time allows the newly married spirit to harmonise into a balanced whisky.

Highland Park Whisky Collection

Picture Credit: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park has a wide range of whiskies to suit every palate. Below is a list of their current expressions that are still available from the distillery.

Aged Whisky Expressions:

10 Years Old – Viking Scars (New Packaging)
12 Years Old – Viking Honour (New Packaging)
18 Years Old – Viking Pride (New Packaging)
25 Years Old
30 Years Old
40 Years Old

Special Releases and Limited Editions

Magnus
Dragon Legend
Valkyrie
Rebus30 10 Year Old
Svein
Einar
Harald
Sigurd
Ragnvald
Thorfinn
King Christian 1
Ice Edition 17 Year Old
Fire Edition 15 Year Old

Highland Park Today

Highland Park continues to be the driving force in Orkney as they commit to keep the Viking’s proud heritage. In the regular business sense, Highland Park is also a forerunner as Edrington Group focuses on making it more famous.

The Good Old Fettercairn Distillery

The Fettercairn Distillery (Picture Credits: www.panoramio.com)

Fettercairn distillery is situated in the Grampian foothills in the Howe of Mearns. Fettercairn means “the foot of the mountain” in Gaelic and reflects the ideal location for a whisky distillery. Natural ingredients are aplenty for the distillery – ice-clear Grampian mountain spring water and barley growing from the fertile soil surrounding the distillery allows this distillery to create stunning whiskies from its stills and barrels.

History of Fettercairn Distillery

The history of Fettercairn is as complex as most of the distilleries found in the region. Alexander Ramsay, the owner of the Fasque estate, founded Fettercairn in 1825 by converting a corn mill into the distillery. He lost his wealth in a few short years and sold everything to Sir John Gladstone. His son was the four-time British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. The distillery remained with the Gladstone family until 1923 and was mainly run by tenants. Thereafter, the distillery was almost mothballed by new owners Ross & Coulter (1923-1927) and James Mann (1927-1939) before it was sold to Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD), the Scotch arm of National Distillers of America in 1939.

ASD closed in 1954 and the distillery was sold to a private owner – Mr Tom Scott Sutherland. Finally, in 1971, it was bought by Tomintoul-Glenlivet and both distilleries joined the Whyte & Mackay umbrella in 1973. It remains with the company since.

The Emblems of Fettercairn Distillery

The emblems of Fettercairn (Picture Credits: www.tripadvisor.com)

Some emblems of Scotch whisky distilleries have a history behind them, and Fettercarin’s is no exception. The unicorn in the Fettercairn logo is part of Alexander Ramsay’s clan crest. The unicorn represents purity and strength and is also a symbol of Scotland since the reign of King Robert III.

The huge, red sandstone archway that stands at the entrance to Fettercairn is another symbol. It was built to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861.

Whiskies from Fettercairn

Fettercairn has an interesting whisky range. It mainly contributes to Whyte & Mackey’s blends but is also bottled as a single malt. The Fettercairn label gains some popularity since 2009 when more efforts are put into single malt bottling. Currently, the Fettercairn Fasque and the Fettercairn Fior are available as official bottlings.

The distillery also has older bottles such as the Fettercairn 875 which was produced in the 1970s for the Italian market. Such bottles are rare and hard to come by in present day.

Fettercairn Distillery Today

Fettercairn continues to be one of the many distilleries that contribute most of its whisky into blends. While we believe that the fate of the distillery may continue as such, there is a chance that more of its whiskies may make its way into single malt bottling in the future.

A Relatively Short History on Allt-A-Bhainne

The Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery (Picture Credits: www.whisky.com)

The Allt-a-Bhainne distillery produces the whisky for the Chivas Brothers blend and currently belonged to the Chivas Brothers. It has a relatively short and undisturbed history but having been mothballed once, it is an interesting distillery to explore.

History of Allt-a-Bhainne distillery

Seagram built this lesser-known distillery in 1975. The Canadian drinks company also owned Chivas Brothers back then. The company built Allt-a-Bhainne to cater to the rising demand for blended whiskies such as the Chivas Brothers and other popular blends owned by Seagram.

During the economic downturn, Seagrams ran into problems and sold off its assets to other drinks company, primarily Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Pernod Ricard took over Allt-a-Bhainne and Chivas Brothers in 2001. They promptly inaugurate the distillery into the Chivas Brothers brand. The distillery mothballed in 2003 for some unknown reasons but reopened in 2005 by the Chivas Brothers to produce whisky for its blends.

Uniqueness of the Distillery

Working on Distillation in Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery (Picture Credit: www.scotchwhisky.com)

Allt-a-Bhainne distillery stands out as an oddball in Speyside mainly because of its modernistic design among the rest of the fanciful distilleries. It is located in the Fiddich Glen, near to Dufftown. The name meant “milk on the burn (steam)” in Gaelic.

The distillery’s design is extremely functional in order for it to be run with minimal staff. All its equipment is located in a single large room with the mash tun at one end and four stills at the other end. The distillery currently produces 4 million litres of pure alcohol per year for the blend production of Chivas Brothers.

It has no official single malt bottling as it is mainly a workhorse for the Chivas Brothers blend. Nonetheless, you can find single malt independent bottlings that carried the Allt-a-Bhainne name such as the one we tried from Gordon and Macphail.

The Distillery Today

Allt-a-Bhainne distillery remains as a workhorse for Chivas Brothers and its liquid goes into Chivas Regal, Passport and 100 Pipers. Due to its nature as a small, productive distillery, it is not open to the public and has no visitor centre since it is not looking at expanding its name and produce to the world.

 

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Dufftown Distillery (Formerly known as Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery)

Picture Credits: www.whisky.com

Dufftown, Scotland is an amazing place. It has the highest concentration of distilleries in Scotland that its name is synonymous with Scotch whisky. It was said that Dufftown earns more capital for the UK Government per head of population than any other towns in the UK. Dufftown distillery is one of the nine distilleries. There were 7 previously, promptly a popular rhyme that goes, “Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills”.

History of Dufftown Distillery

The Dufftown-Glenlivet Company founded Dufftown in 1895. It was formerly called the Dufftown-Glenlivet distillery. Old bottles under the Dufftown-Glenlivet are still in the market. In 1897, Mackenzie & Co acquired the distillery and kept it for the next 40 years. Arthur Bell and Sons purchased the distillery in 1937. It marked the beginning of Dufftown distillery’s association with blended whiskies. Most of Dufftown’s whiskies go into the Bell’s whisky blend, as it still is today.

In 1974, the distillery expanded its stills from 2 to 4, and again from 4 to 6 in 1979. This quick response to a rise in demand contributed to Dufftown’s reputation as one of the most best-functioning distilleries in Scotland in terms of production. In 1985, United Distillers acquired Dufftown distillery. They were in turn, acquired by Diageo. In 2006, the appearance of the Singleton of Dufftown signalled some changes in the distillery.

Dufftown Distillery

Picture Credits: www.tripadvisor.com

The Dufftown distillery is one of the most cramped distilleries in Speyside, Scotland, largely due to its haphazard expansion. The site was converted from a mill and space was limited. Nonetheless, the expansion allows the distillery to produce 5.8 million litres of pure alcohol every year. The distillery has a full lauter mash tun of thirteen tonnes, 6 stills, and 8 warehouses with almost 100,000 bourbon barrels and sherry cask of malt whisky. The malting house closed down in 1968. Dufftown distillery now sourced its malts from a Diageo-owned industrial malting site.

Dufftown distillery is closed to the public but it is possible to tour the facility if you ask the distillery nicely in advance!

Dufftown’s Whisky

Picture Credits: www.spiritsociety.ch

Dufftown distillery produces whisky as a component for Arthur Bells and Sons’ blended whisky. In 2006, it joined the Singleton family. As a result, single malt from Dufftown begins to surface in the market. The Singleton of Dufftown 12 Years released in travel retail in the same year. The Singleton of Dufftown 15 and 18 Years Old followed after. In 2014, there were 2 special releases – Singleton Tailfire and Singleton Sunray.

Dufftown Distillery Today

We believe that Dufftown distillery will continue to be part of the blending for Arthur Bells and Sons in the near future. However, with the success of the Singleton of Dufftown, it is possible that this amazing distillery may divert more of its spirits for the single malt market in the future. We hope to see more from Dufftown distillery in future!

Royal Brackla Distillery – Once the favourite of the King

Picture Credits: geograph.org.uk

The Brackla distillery, or more commonly known as the Royal Brackla distillery is not always wearing the prefix “royal”. It was given to the distillery by the King of United Kingdom, King William IV in 1833. How did it come about and what happened between those years and now?

History of Brackla Distillery

Captain William Fraser of Brackla House founded the Brackla distillery on the Cawdor Castle estate in 1812. He was a hugely unpopular man, but his whiskies were received as one of the best in its time. King William IV came to hear about it and tried it personally. He loved it so much that he decreed the whisky to be his chosen drink in the Royal Court in 1833. The King granted a Royal Warrant to Brackla Distillery. That warrant gave the distillery the permission to add a prefix “Royal” to its name. Therefore, Brackla distillery became Royal Brackla distillery since 1833.

Royal Brackla distillery is one of the three distilleries in Scotland to ever bear the prefix. The other 2 distilleries are Royal Lochnagar (active) and Glenury Royal (mothballed).

William Fraser passed the distillery to his son Robert Fraser in 1852. He disposed it to the firm Robert Fraser & Co in 1878. The firm promptly changed its name to the Brackla Distillery Co Ltd the following year. The distillery remained with the company until 1919.

Royal Brackla in the 1900s

Picture Credits: www.potstills.org

John Mitchel and James Leith of Aberdeen bought the distillery in 1919 and sold it to John Bisset & Co Ltd of Leith in 1926. The Distillers Company Ltd took over John Bisset & Co in 1943 and the distillery went along with it. Shortly after that, the distillery closed down due to the restriction on the use of barley for distilling during World War II.

Royal Brackla distillery reopened in 1945. During this time, it became closely associated with blends. The distillery closed again in 1964 to 1966 due to renovations and rebuilding, where the owners changed from direct firing of the stills to internal heating. The distillery also expanded the number of stills from 2 to 4 in 1970 and built new warehouses in 1975.

Royal Brackla distillery closed again in 1985 but the whisky remained on site where they continued to mature and use for blending.

The Royal Brackla distillery reopened in 1991 with John Bisset & Co Ltd getting the license to the distillery in 1992. It remained with them till 1998. During the short period, 2 expressions were released – a semi-official 10-year-old by Fauna & Flora and a 20-year-old UD Rare Malt.

In 1998, the Royal Brackla distillery was sold to John Dewar & Sons – the subsidiary of the Barcardi. The distillery released an official bottling of Royal Brackla in 2004 and that was probably the end of it. Nonetheless, older bottles released during the 1970s and 1980s are available. One such example is our review of the Royal Brackla 12 Years Old.

The distillery continued to be a producer for the Dewar house blends such as Johnnie Walker and the various Dewar blends all through the 1990s.

Royal Brackla Today

Picture Credits: www.forbes.com

Dewar announced a surprise for Royal Brackla’s fans in 2014 with a range of single malts that released in 2015. Among them were the Royal Brackla 12, 16 and 21 years old. The originally closed to public distillery are also open to the public with distillery tours. We believe that more plans for Royal Brackla may be underway. Let’s wait for it!

 

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The Amazing History of Glenfiddich

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single malt owned and produced by William Grant & Sons in Dufftown, Scotland. Better known as a Speyside single malt, Glenfiddich clinched the most awards at the International Spirits Challenge so far. It is one of the few Scottish distilleries that are family-owned with its current owner being the fifth generation of William Grant’s descendants.

History of Glenfiddich

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

William Grant was a visionary of his time. For 20 years, he harboured the dream to “make the best dram in the valley”. He realised his dream in the summer of 1886, where he, together with his 7 sons and 2 daughters, set out to build the distillery by hand, with only one stone mason to help. It was completed one year later.

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

William named the distillery “Glenfiddich”, which is Gaelic for “Valley of the Deer” and a stag became the distillery’s symbol. The first drop of spirit ran on Christmas Day, 1887. It was a memorable day; one that paved the way for Scotland’s single malts.

William’s grandson, Gordon Grant joined the family distillery in the 1920s, when Prohibition was in full swing. Instead of halting distillation, he increased whisky production. Due to his insights, Glenfiddich was one of the 6 operating distilleries in Scotland with fine, aged whiskies, ready to be sold, after the Prohibition ended.

In 1957, Charles Gordon (William’s great grandson), built an onsite infrastructure that included having coppersmiths onsite to maintain their copper stills. A dedicated cooperage followed in 1959. These 2 infrastructures proved to add strength to Glenfiddich as it made them self-sufficient later. Almost at the same time, Glenfiddich also launched its now-iconic triangular bottle, which houses all their liquids up till today.

Growing the Glenfiddich Brand

The 1960s to 1970s were tough years for whisky distilleries. Many of the smaller, independent ones were either bought over or closed down. William Grants & Sons increased the production of their whisky and introduced both advertising campaigns as well as a visitor centre in order to survive the tough years. This period effectively marked the “birth” of modern-day single malt category as the company decided to market single malt as a premium brand in its own capacity.

It is interesting to note that William Grant & Sons are also one of the pioneers to package its bottles in tubes and gift tins. They also understood the importance of duty-free markets for their whiskies. These marketing strategies worked for the brand, and it grows to become the best-selling single malt in the world today.

The Glenfiddich Ranges of Whisky

Glenfiddich whisky is produced at its distillery in Dufftown, Speyside. They take water from the Robbie Dhu springs and use various oak casks sourced from the Caribbean and America (Rum and Bourbon) as well as sherry butts from Jerez, Spain. The distillery has 28 hand-made copper pot stills and a team of coppersmiths maintain them on site. Glenfiddich has an extensive range of whisky from the core to the rare and the experimental.

The Core Range

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The core range includes their signature 12 YO, 15 YO, 18 YO and 21 YO. Each whisky is finely crafted to their individual taste profiles. The core range is popular and is enjoyed by many whisky drinkers around the world.

The Special Edition

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The special edition range consists of expressions bottled for a reason. For example, Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix was created in 2010 after warehousemen worked 24/7 to rescue maturing casks in minus 19-degree Celsius after extreme snow collapsed some of their warehouse roofs. Snow Phoenix was the result of the marrying of the finest of those rescued casks.

The Rare and Vintage

 

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The rare and vintage collection is Glenfiddich’s most exclusive and oldest single malt whiskies. The distillery auctioned these bottles for charity and broke records all over the world.

The Cask Collection

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The Cask Collection is Glenfiddich’s global travel retail edition. They represent the family’s pioneering and innovative spirits.

The Experimental Series

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

This ground-breaking series of single malt whisky is the proof of the family’s philosophy of freedom and possibilities. Both of these expressions came from collaborations between Malt Master Brian Kinsman and someone outside of the distillery.

Glenfiddich Today

William Grant & Sons continues to bring exceptional whiskies to the international market with their Glenfiddich creation. There is no doubt that future generations of the family will continue the proud tradition of Glenfiddich and bring it to greater heights. We look forward to more amazing creations from the distillery in the future.