Gone But Not Forgotten
We've all had one of those drams, the limited edition bottling which has now sold out, the single cask bottle which has sold out everywhere before you noticed, or the expression that has been replaced or discontinued.
These are all examples of bottles that we wish we could see, hold and drink again, but there are whole distilleries where everything is like this.
For one reason or another all of the following distilleries have stopped production, closed down and in some cases been knocked down and replaced with housing or industrial units, but they should not ever be forgotten about and with companies releasing stock they have been holding onto, such as the Diageo Special Releases, or the recent Littlemill 25, along with independant bottlings from the likes of Cadenheads, Douglas Laing, Gordon & MacPhail and the The Scotch Malt Whisky Society their history is being kept alive.
The purpose of this article is to look at some of these distilleries and show examples of some of the bottlings that you could pick up, some will require a small Lotto win, and as such keep the memory of these distilleries alive.
Now lets be perfectly honest here before we start that some of these distilleries will have closed down for the simple fact that the liquid they were producing wasn't up to scratch, but then a lot of that will come down to personal opinion, wood choice and in some cases even the whisky not having previously being given the opportunity to age properly in the cask.
Banff (Inverboyndie) Closed 1983
Banff, or Inverboyndie as the locals knew it, was one of the Diageo distillereis that was closed during the downturn in whisky sales in the early to mid eighties.
The still house was knocked down by 1985 and by the late 1980's most other buildings had disappeared as well. The last remaining warehouse of was destroyed in a fire in 1991.
There have been a number of Independant bottlings of Banff over the years but the only recorded official bottling that I can find is the 21 Year Old, 1982 vintage from the Rare Malts series released in 2004. I've found a bottle of this version available from The Whisky Exchange.
Like many of the distilleries that closed at a similar time I'm surprised at the lack of availability. Port Ellen, which closed in the same year, has seen many many official releases with runs of 6000 or more bottlings, yet this has been only 1. Rumour had it that this was the distillery used as the house bottling in the House of Commons for many years, but I'm not sure how true that is and for what time periods.
This is a distillery I've yet to try, so if anyone has a sample they wish to send me, please get in touch.
Brora (Clynelish) Closed 1983
Brora wasn't always called Brora, as initially the distillery now known as Brora was called Clynelish, then in the late 1960's a second distillery was built, which was named Clynelish and the original distillery was closed for a short period.
The original Clynelish distillery was then re-opened a year later to produce peated spirit due to a shortage of peated spirit from Islay, this continued until the distillery was closed in 1983, along with many others. To avoid confusion the original Clynelish distillery, which was now producing peated malt whisky, was renamed Brora.
I've tried a couple of Brora's over the years, definitely not as many as i would like, and my favourite has thus far been the Brora 30 Year Old (8th Release Bottled 2009) and although I can't find this one at the moment there are a number of Brora 30 Year Olds from different release years available from The Whisky Exchange.
If you have the money though, the one that you should buy is the most expenisve Single Malt ever bottled by Diageo (at least thats the last information i have anyway) which is the Brora 40 year old which is exclusive to Travel Retail and weighs in at an impressive £6.995.
There does seem to still be a fairly decent amount of this in stock as Diageo's 2015 Special Releases has yet another bottling of this with 3,000 bottles of a 1977 37 year old being released this year for £1,300 per bottle.
Dallas Dhu Closed 1983
Dallas Dhu is a unique distillery, as after it's closure in 1983, mainly due to a prolongued drought causing problems with the water supply, the distillery was re-opened in 1988 but not as a working distillery.
From 1988 the Dallas Dhu distillery was opened and run by Historic Scotland as a visitor centre and whisky production museum which you can still visit today. An eery site seeing a fully kitted out distillery that does not produce any whisky.
Bottlings of this distilleries whisky have been fairly rare over the years with few official bottlings, but it is worth looking out for some of the independent bottlings, such as this Gordon and MacPhail 1980, which can be picked up from places like The Whisky Exchange relatively inexpensively for around the £250 mark.
Remaining fairly affordable at this price with independant bottlings, this is one distillery I have yet to try any whisky from but is certainly high on the list of ones to look out for.
Glen Albyn Closed 1983
The North Highland distillery of Glen Albyn was built on the ruins of what was Muirtown Brewery, in around 1840.
Glen Albyn was described as being "the classic example of highland style" by many whisky commentators and writers although it did not survive the dip in the early 1980s and was closed, along with so many others in 1983 and has since been demolished.
Official Bottlings are few and far between with only 1 bottle in the 2002 Rare Malts Releases being the Glen Albyn 26 Year Old 1975 being the most recent official bottling i can find, although it would appear to be one that is difficult to source and Auction houses would be the best bet.
Some older bottlings or independent bottlings are still around though, with a few on both the Whisky Exchange and Hard To Find Whisky websites.
Glenesk (Hillside) Closed 1985
The Glenesk distillery, which is sometimes also known as Hillside, was founded in 1897 and was known as a few different names, Highland Esk then quickly it changed to North Esk, then from 1838-1964 it was known as Montrose, then from 1964-1980 as Hillside before it finally became Glenesk in 1980 and then closed in 1985.
Interestingly although closed in 1985 the distilling licence was not cancelled until 1992 and all the distilling equipment has now been dismantled and removed.
A drum maltings was built beside the distillery in 1968 (then enlarged in 1973) and through a few owners is now owned by Irish company Greencore which is the sixth largest malt producer in the world.
From 1938-1964 the distillery used a patent still to produce grain whisky, from 1964 is was converted back to a malt distillery.
There are a number of distillery own bottlings, from the 12 year old produced in the 1980s, and available from places like The Whisky Exchange to a range of 25 year old bottlings as part of the Rare Malts series in 1995/1996/1997.
Most other bottlings are independent bottlings, with a number available from The Whisky Exchange
Imperial (Glen Carron) Closed 1998
The Imperial distillery has had a chequered past, to say the least, and has been closed for over 60% of it's existence, almost one of those distilleries which was always doomed to fail.
Built in 1897, it closed after only one season of production due to the whisky boom and burst of the late 1890's. it then opened again in 1919 then again closed in 1925. The maltings continued to operate but it was not until 1955 that full production of whisky was once again happening at this distillery.
It then closed again in 1985, before being bought over four years later and re-entering production in 1991 before being closed for the final time in 1998. In 2012 the current owners, Pernod Ricard, announced that the distillery would be demolished, and rebuilt and was due to open in 2015 under the new name of Glen Carron although I have not yet seen any information confirming it as yet.
There are very few official bottlings of Imperial anywhere on the market, with only a 15 year old bottled by Allied, the then owners, in 2000 being the only one i can find. However there are a glut of independent bottlings with many from the likes of Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory and with prices from £50-£100 it's still very much on the affordable scale, so please check out The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies or Master of Malt and pick up a couple now before they become the next whisky to see prices sky rocket.
Littlemill Closed 1994/1997
Littlemill is claimed to have been founded in 1772, with a brewery having previously been on the site, it changed hands a number of times over the years with the current owners, Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse, who are also the owners of Loch Lomond Distillery and the Glen Scotia distillery.
The distillery was initially mothballed in 1984 before being brought back into production in 1989 and then closing again when the then owners went into receivership in 1994. Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse then bought this distillery and it's assets and it was finally dismantled in 1997.
Over the years the buildings deteriorated before a fire in 2003 destroyed much of it, the site has since mostly been demolished and cleared.
There are a number of independent bottlings of Littlemill on the market for the £150-£250 bracket from all specialists like The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies or Master of Malt However the Littlemill 25 Year old released officially by the distillery in 2015, and available to buy from Master of Malt is available for around the £2000 mark, making it a pricy investment for those looking to try an official bottling.
Pittyvaich Closed 1993
This distillery did not last long at all, originally built to help with the supply for Bells Extra Special and opened in 1975, the buildings were described as "Ultra Modern" as they "started with the plant and built the outside of the distillery around it".
However like many of the buildings from that era issues with asbestos in the roof, meant a lot of work would have been required to maintain the buildings, as all the roofing would have needed to be replaced, thus the decision was taken in 1993, only 18 short years since it opened, to close the distillery.
The buildings were demolished in 2002 and this distillery has seen a number of official releases, not least the 12 year old flora and fauna bottling and a couple of releases within the Diageo Special Releases, with the 20 Year Old from the 2009 releases (reviewed here) and the latest release in the 2015 Special Releases (See Ben's opinion here) .
If you're looking to pick up one of these, including the Flora and Fauna, or an independent bottling then trying The Whisky Exchange would not be a bad start.
Port Ellen Closed 1983
Port Ellen has gained itself a bit of a reputation, or a cult following, whichever you like to call it in recent years, the histry of the distillery, on Islay, dates back to 1824.
Through many owners and ups and downs the distillery came through it, until it was closed, along with so many others, in 1983. The buildings are still mostly in place and used as maltings, with the dunnage warehouses now used for maturing some of the stock from Lagavulin.
Port Ellen has featured in no less than 17 of the Rare Malts or Special Releases since 1995, up to and including the most recent 2015 Special Releases (See Ben's opinion here).
Prices have gone upwards in the last few years with the current 2015 release costing £2,400 a bottle.
There are a number of interesting bottlings from Port Ellen, both official and independent and some of my favourites have been from the wonderful guys and girls at Douglas Laing, their most recent release, a 32 year Old Port Ellen in their XOP range, is available to by from the Douglas Laing Online Store for under £975, a bit of a saving on the official 32 year old bottling.
Rosebank Closed 1993
Rosebank, as many of the regular readers off this blog will know, is a personal favourite of mine and i have a large amount of love for this distillery and the Lowland Ladies flavours from it.
Established around the 1817-1819 Rosebank Distillery in Falkirk was in an ideal position at the time, on the banks of the Forth and Clyde canal it was easy to transfer whisky to either Edinburgh or Glasgow this way, unfortunately the location and positioning was partly the reason for the distillery closing in 1993, with rumours of access issues and the requirement to spend some £2Million on upgrading effluent discharging facilities being the common reasons blamed for its demise.
A triple distilled, as many lowland drams are, whisky this lowland has had it;s share of official bottlings with the ever popular, and growing in cost, 12 year old Flora and Fauna and seven appearances in the Rare Malts or Special Releases most recently in the 2014 releases.
now rarer to get a hold of, the prices are steadily climbing although one or two bottlings can still be had for under £150 a bottle, and the 2004 Rare Malts release (which i reviewed recently) was a lovely reminder of how good they are.
The Whisky Exchange have a number of bottlings as do Hard To Find Whisky and I would suggest looking at the Online Auction sites for the 12 year old Flora and Fauna.
St Magdalene (Linlithgow) Closed 1983
St Magdalene distillery, known also as Linlithgow after the town in which it is situated, was first licenced in 1797 and stood beside the main road from Edinburgh to Glasgow (later on the main rail tracks between the two cities also).
The opening of the Union canal in 1822 also added to the logistical positioning of the distillery.
Linlithgow, famous for Mary Queen of Scots, was also famous for it's water one of the contributing factors to the clean fresh taste of this whisky.
Now blocks of flats in the town, the pagoda roofs still remain as a reminder of the distillery.
With only three bottlings in the Rare Malts or Special Releases range this is not an easy dram to source in amongst the glut of some of the others closed at a similar time (see Brora and Port Ellen above) but it is a superb dram and recent releases included a 32 year old from Wm Cadenheads (reviewed here) and The Whisky Exchange have a couple of other bottlings with starting prices around the £450 mark, drams from this distillery can also be picked up from auction on a fairly regular basis also,
So thats an interesting selection with some suggested choices if you want to pick any up, obviously i believe you should be drinking them and not storing them on dusty shelves for years to come, but if you think i might have missed a distillery or want to let me know about a bottling you preferred please use the comments below or catch me on the usual social media channels.