Imperial malt whisky distillery

Trivia about Imperial

1) The name Imperial is different from the 'geographically inspired' names of most other whisky distilleries.
Imperial's construction in 1897 coincided with Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee , which was an inspiration when naming the original distillery.

2) The original Imperial distillery differed from other Speyside distilleries, as it was built of red Aberdeen brick with an iron beam and pillar framework to make the distillery fire resistant. Pine forests surround the distillery.

3) Imperial is located next to the former Carron train station and the railway line (which was closed in the 1960's).

4) The distillery is located close to the Spey river, but the water can't be used for the whisky production.
The water supply of Imperial originates from the Mannoch hills to form the Ballintom Burn. The cooling water travels for two and a half miles. As it travels by gravity there is no power required to feed the water into the condensers at Imperial. The hot water from the condensers that is reintroduced back into the burn is too hot to meet legal demands. Allied's Chief Engineer Manager Tom Dunn solved this problem by designing a series of walls within the dam that created a long canal by which the hot water has to travel before it reaches the outlet. This sufficiently cools the water before it is reintroduced into the burn.
 

Imperial single malt whisky

Imperial 18yo 1990/2008 (52.2%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, C#358, 226 Bts.)
Nose: Polished and fruity with subtle citrus overtones. More complex than most 'summer style' whiskies.
Pleasant. I don't usually go ga-ga about this type of 'mainstream' whiskies, but this one has SO much to offer!
After ten minutes loads of spices emerge. Lost a few points during a second try, though...
Taste: Seems like a grain whisky before opening into a complex combination of malty and fruity tones.
In the finish some grain traits return, but they never overpower the complex woody notes. Beautiful tannins.
Loses just a point at the very end. No wait, now the nose pushes it up by another point again.
Score: 87 points - and that makes this the best Imperial I've tried so far.

Imperial 1998/2007 (55.1%, Whisky Doris, C#106041, 178 Bts.)
Nose: Light, crisp and quite sour - almost like vinegar. Earns most points on the palate.
Taste: Much sweeter than the nose would suggest. Strong, fruity tannins. Perhaps a tad cloying, but I like it.
Score: 82 points - this seems like a great dram for a long summer night when you don't want to think too much.

Imperial 1993/2004 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky)
Nose: Polished, sweet and sherried with a hint of lemon. A classic profile. Great.
Yes, now some organics emerge - with the slightest hint of vomit in the background?
Unfortunately, it loses steam after five minutes, Well, it loses points here, of course.
Taste: Fruity. Solid with maybe a very faint hint of smoke. A pleasant mouth feel.
Hot. Rich, sweet and fruity on the palate. Liquorice. Pinches of pepper and smoke.
Score: 84 points - a fairy classic Speysider that perhaps lacks some refinement.
Hey, hey, hey... Another young surprise from this silent distillery.

Imperial 1990/2003 (60%, Gordon & MacPhail Special reserve for Whisky World, Holland)
Nose: starts off powerful & sweet with more grain & organics over time. Then fruitier with a hint of pepper.
Taste: Hot, sweet and chewy in the mouth. Very pleasant, but the nose is what pushes it into the 80's.
Score: 82 points - which might be partly due to the higher proof than G&M's 'standard' 40%.

Imperial 1991/2001 Port Wood Finish (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection, C#99/48 1.2, 2600 Bottles)
Nose: Aaah. Lovely! Sherry and fruits. Pipe tobacco. Polished and wonderfully balanced.
Varnish. Very rich and complex, almost worthy of a score in the 90's - at least for a while.
Unfortunately, the 'volume' of this malt disappears rather quickly. Eau de Cologne?
I had it in the upper 80's for the first few minutes, before it loses steam (to soon).
Taste: Woody and smoke at first. It seems a bit flat but blossoms after a few seconds.
Very nice but not quite enough 'oomph' - it might have done better at 50% or higher.
Score: 84 points - there's a distant hint of soap perfume keeping it from the upper 80's.
Still, this is the very best Imperial I ever tried...

Imperial 18yo 1982 (43%, Chieftain's Choice, , Bottled +/- 2000, 70cl)
Nose: Alcoholic & slightly grainy. Oily as well. Flowery sweetness. Dust? Rotting hay? String beans? Organics.
Taste: Minty freshness. Creamy & malty - quite powerful. Peanuts? Slightly winey in the finish.
Score: 73 points - fairly decent whisky, but hardly good value at almost 100 guilders.

Imperial 1979/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl)
Nose: Rich and oily. A heavy sweetness with more peat after some breathing.
Taste: Malty & sherried at first, then sweeter. A lot of development, but it loses some points in the finish.
Score: 75 points - a nice opportunity to taste a dram from an obscure distillery, but not too impressive.

Imperial 16yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife, Bottled +/- 1993)
Nose: Sweet and creamy - and apparently not as sherried as the previous two.
It has something faintly coastal with a whiff of smoke and a pinch of salt - or iodine?
Liquorice, perhaps? It's all very faint, but it's there. And yes, now I get some peat!
Yes, and organics like in the last one. Given time, it really grew on me. Interesting
Taste: Unfortunately, it's a tad flat and uninspired on the palate. Rather bitter finish.
Score: 75 points - it's just too flat on the palate for me; this has none of the 'chewy' quality I love.
 

And there's more to tell about Imperial...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Imperial Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Imperial page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Imperial expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.) 
 

Where to find Imperial

Imperial Scotch Whisky

Imperial  (Pronounced: just as you write it...)
Speysid (Central)
5727'17.08"N, 318'8.12"W
Cardhu, Knockando, Glenfarclas, Dailuaine, Benrinnes
1897
Closed - the buildings were demolished by 2013
Ballintomb Burn / Tonory source
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
1,600,000 litres of alcohol per year
Pernod Ricard > Allied (since 2005)
Carron by Aberlour, Banffshire, AB43 9QP, Scotland
-
No
No
Not in recent years
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

Imperial location

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Imperial 1979 malt whisky
Imperial whisky advertisement

As far as I know, there has only ever been one official bottling of
Imperial; a 15 years old expression from Allied. The independent
bottlers Gordon & McPhail offered a few vintages during the 1990's
and early noughties, but those 'licensed' bottlings could hardly be
considered official bottlings.
 
Imperial came very close to being demolished; Moray Council had
already given permission for demolition of the distillery buildings in
2005, as well as permission to build new housing on the location.
Estate Agents Bell Ingram had already received the assignment to
sell the premises when the new owners of Imperial (Pernod / Allied)
put those plans in the freezer - at least temporarily. However, it's
still doubtful Imperial will be revived again with a crisis going on... 

Imperial was rebuilt and reopened in 1955, at which point SMD took over administration.
Ten years later, in 1965, the number of stills was expanded from two to four and a Saladin box was installed to malt the barley. Just like Glenury Royal, Imperial was closed in 1985 by DCL and sold to United Distillers a year later.
 
Surprisingly enough, the Imperial distillery was acquired and re-opened by Allied Distillers in 1989, only to be mothballed again in 1998. (Allied later merged into the Allied Domecq conglomerate.)

Most Scotch malt whisky distilleries have names
that are inspired by history or geography, but
this is not the case with Imperial. As a result, it's
one of the few single malt whisky brands that
has namesakes in other whisky categories.
 
There has been at least one Scotch blend with
the name and in the USA a bourbon whiskey (!)
with the name 'Imperial' is much better known
than the single malt whisky. But even in Europe
and the UK Imperial was never very well known.
The fact that the distillery was closed for more
than half of its life contributed to its obscurity, as
well as the fact that no official bottling existed.

Imperial whisky

Imperial distillery in the new millennium

2005 - Pernod Ricard / Chivas Brothers buy Allied Domecq and become the new owners of the Imperial distillery.
They decided not to reopen or refurbish the defunct Imperial distillery.
 
2013 - The original buildings of the Imperial distillery are demolished, but Chivas Brothers announce plans to build
a brand new distillery on the site of the old distillery. Chances are that they will name the new distillery 'Imperial' as
well, although the only link between the old and the new distillery seems to be the location.
 

Imperial distillery, Scotland

The Imperial distillery was constructed in 1897 by Thomas
Mackenzie, an entrepreneur who already owned two other
malt whisky distilleries; Dailuaine and Talisker. Imperial was
transferred just a year later to Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries
Ltd. who - like the name suggests - also administered the
other distillery in the Scottish town of Carron: Dailuaine.
 
Imperial distillery was closed again within a year due to
the Pattison whisky crisis and remained closed for almost
two decades. In 1916 Imperial was bought by a consortium
of DCL (Distillers Company Limited), W.P. Lowrie, Johnnie
Walker and Dewar's. Production was resumed in 1919, but
in 1925 the distillery was closed yet again. That year DCL
also took over Imperial completely. This might not have
been DCL's best investment because it wasn't until 1955
before the distillery was reopened again.

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