In the summer of 2003 some of the malt maniacs had the pleasure of visiting the distillery, shortly
after Andrew Symington (of Signatory Vintage fame) had purchased Edradour and Iain Henderson
(former manager at Laphroaig distillery) had signed on as Operation Director. It was a beautiful
day in Perthshire; Iain and the tour guide took their time to answer even the weirdest questions.
Because Edradour is such a small and traditional distillery we had the opportunity to investigate
every little aspect of the complete malt whisky distillation process.
The availability of some expressions of Edradour is a 'litmus test' for liquorists. If they don't
have a handful of different bottlings available it might be time to start looking around for
another whisky supplier. These days, these small brands are the most interesting to watch.
As I mentioned before, it remains to be
seen if Edradour can actually hang on to
its 'Scotland's Smallest Distillery' claim.
It just depends on how 'smallest' is defined.
Soon after Andrew Symington and Iain Henderson took over at Edradour, they
started distillation of a peated malt under the name 'Ballechin'. Peated malts
went out of fashion in the 1980's on the Scottish mainland, but they're back...
Before Andrew and Iain took control of Edradour, the distillery
had built an unenviable reputation for batch variation. Bottles
that were released in the 1990's (depicted at the left) ranged
from average quality to frankly rather poor. I think Andrew's
decision to focus on single cask bottlings and a wide range
of special finishes (Sauternes, Burgundy, etc.) was brilliant;
he turned Edradour's biggest weakness into a strength.
Edradour now holds Scotland's broadest cask portfolio.
Edradour had been in the hands of American owners for almost a century when it was obtained by
Campbell Distillers (a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard) in 1982. A visitor centre was added to the distillery;
probably one of the first examples of what is now a pretty common feature in Scotland. Edradour has
the required minimum of two stills and uses mostly traditional equipment like worm tubs to cool the
spirit. The wort is cooled by the last 'Morton's refrigerator' operating in the Scotch whisky industry.
Because Edradour is such a small distillery and part of the equipment is so quaint, they have been
struggling to achieve some consistency between batches before 2003, but with limited success.
Edradour (Pronounced: Ed-ra-dower)
56°42'5.4684 N, 3°42'3.7152 W
Aberfeldy, Blair Athol, Glenturret
1837 ('Glenforres' was probably founded in 1825)
Sources on Mhoulin Moor
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
90,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Andrew Symington (since 2002)
Pitlochry, Perthshire PH16 5JP
Yes - drawing around 100,000 visitors per year
Yes, lots and lots of them...
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) Edradour distillery is located near the charming little town of Pitlochry - and if you're staying over in the town I can heartily recommend walking to and from the distillery along the winding road through the hills.
2) Being (one of) the smallest distilleries in Scotland, bottlings of the Edradour whisky showed strong batch variation during the 1990's. After Andrew Symington took over, many of the new bottlings were special finishes with not a lot of 'distillery character' left. Between you and me; that character was more like a 'fault' and won't really be missed.
3) Edradour distillery annually attracts almost 100,000 visitors - but they only produce 90,000 litres of malt whisky each year. That roughly means that for every litre of whisky that is sold, one person visited Edradour.
4) The cast iron mash tun is an antique - it was made over a century ago in 1910.
5) The malted barley that is used for the Ballechin malt whisky has a phenol content of 50 PPM.
(Bottlings under the name "Edradour" are listed first, releases of the peatier "Ballechin" whisky are listed below.)
Edradour NAS 'Port Cask Matured' 5th Release (46%, OB, C#382, 1133 Bts., Bottled 2/2010)
Nose: Oy... The sweet & sour combination I often find in finished whiskies. Expressive. Milk powder.
Very fruity, but it feels a tad artificial. After a few very strong years, the old face of Edradour turns up again.
Taste: Sweet start - but it's sharp and alcoholic. No balance between the various elements. A little watery.
Score: 72 points - it almost seems like Andrew S. may have become a little overconfident. Too young a cask?
Edradour 7yo 2003/2010 (56.1%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Bourbon C#120, 233 Bts.)
Nose: Mellow. Hyacinth. Spring blossoms. Not too expressive - but not too offensive either.
With a splash of water some more flowery aroma's emerged, together with some very faint toilet freshener.
Taste: This whisky starts a little floral on the palate, which fits the nose nicely. Smooth but fairly flat.
Score: 76 points - it scores one point above average because the high proof gives it some "oomph".
Otherwise, it's not very memorable. Odd; LMdW seems usually very adept at picking the top casks.
Edradour 10yo 1997/2008 (56.9%, OB, Moscatel Cask Finish, 468 Bts.)
Nose: Smooth and round. Water melon and other light fruits. Peaches. Marzipan. Light and refreshing.
Quite rich and very pleasant. Obviously a 'finished' whisky, but it works quite well. Nicely integrated.
Taste: Smooth, fruity start. A solid, sweet centre. Plenty of tannins in the (slightly gritty) finish. Some smoke?
Only in the end it shows that it lacks some substance. Not as well integrated as the nose; a tad rough.
Score: 83 points - the nose is very interesting, but the palate doesn't warrant a score in the upper 80's.
Edradour 10yo 1997/2008 (57.1%, OB, Sassicaia Cask Finish, 464 Bts.)
Nose: Starts with an explosion of very concentrated fruits. Softens up after breathing, but remains expressive.
Fresh and fruity; a more 'sunny' profile than that of the Moscatel Cask Finish. A subtle, enjoyable sweetness.
After a minute some subtle spices emerge. A nicely balanced profile; identifiable as a finish, but it works well.
Taste: Sweet & fruity in the start, more serious and solid in the centre. Fruits, wood & some tannins in the finish.
Score: 84 points - this is my favourite 'finish' in the 2008 range of Edradour; a job very well done.
Edradour 1995/2008 (57%, OB, Cask #458, 683 Bts.)
Nose: Pleasant but not terribly expressive. There is fun to be had, but it stays very subtle. Fairly sweet.
After a few minutes of breathing there's a trace of perfume. Slowly opens up a little bit with some oxygen.
Taste: Smooth start; surprisingly gentle at 57%. Much more character than the nose would suggest.
Score: 79 points - I guess the perfumy trait is masked by the fruity finishes in many other expressions.
Edradour 23yo 1983/2006 Port Finish (52,1%, Signatory Vintage, C#06/0554, 743 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet & rich in the nose with a hint of organics in the background. Rotting milk powder.
There's something chemical about it. Maybe this is a little too 'doctored' for some...
Taste: Overly sweet on the palate - clearly a finished whisky. Some smoke as well.
Score: 83 points - a little weird, but the wood clearly present in the finish.
Edradour 11yo 1994/2005 (59.6%, OB, SfTC, Madeira finish, cask #04/316/4, 488 bottles)
Nose: Light and a tad dusty. A little sharp and not too expressive. The faintest organics. Unevolved.
Taste: Solid, sweet and fruity start. Big centre. Dry, cool and a tad metallic in the finish. Some nice tannins.
Score: 74 points - not really my cup of tea, overall. The finish has a 'bourbony flatness' I'm not crazy about.
Edradour 11yo 1994/2005 (57.1%, OB, Straight from The Cask, Gaja Barolo finish)
Nose: Fruit sweets. Some spices and organics in the background. Quickly growing complexity.
Oh yeah, this is turning into a sherry monster! The spices and organics grow more powerful over time.
Taste: Smooth start. Smoky and fruity in the centre, then the tannins emerge. Lovely mouth feel.
Score: 88 points - it has a few odd sides to it (like a taste of Nivea salve or baby oil) but I like it a lot.
Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Burgundy Finish (57.4%, OB, cask #04/13/3, 458 bottles)
Nose: Wowie! Big and fruity. Mint. Spices and some very mild organics. Cinnamon.
It's quite spectacular, although I can't really identify a lot of the specific aroma's.
Taste: Eugh... Very herbal start. it's not exactly perfumy, but it comes close.
Cinnamon. An aspirin bitterness in the finish. Oh, how it falls from grace. Too bad...
Score: 82 points - this is a malt you have to work at. Not MOTR, that much is certain...
Edradour 21yo 1983/2004 Port Finish (53.6%, OB, cask #03/1041, 776 bottles)
Nose: Quite mellow and malty at first, but quickly some organics emerge. It grows sweeter and spicier.
The organics open up nicely. Oriental dishes. After tasting it I got some 'Blue Curacao' in the nose as well.
Taste: Oy! A strange chemical sweetness, like in Blue Curacao liqueur. Smurf whisky?
Nasty! It grows woodier and winier towards the finish, which is a good thing, really.
Score: 79 points - extremely interesting, but I wouldn't actively recommend it to anyone.
Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (56.8%, OB, cask #04/11/2, 445 bottles)
Nose: Smooth and slightly oily at first, but growing more powerful quickly. Fruits.
Maybe a hint of peat? Rubber (bicycle tires). Then more spices. Cinnamon again.
Taste: Once again a bit of an odd taste. A chemical fruitiness like the last one.
It grows very, very woody in the finish. Extremely dry as well. Hints of smoke and perfume.
Candy on the palate, but not extremely sweet. Dry and woody impressions dominate with time.
Score: 82 points - this is an experience... but it's probably not to everybody's liking.
Edradour 10yo 1994/2004 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered Collection, D. 9/8/'94, B. 20/10/'04, C#349, 783 Bts.)
Nose: Fruity and rough with a hint of smoke in the background. Still some of the 'faulty' traits of Edradour.
Initially I was thinking of a score in the lower 60's, but after half an hour it becomes notably more complex.
Taste: A simple fruitiness with plenty of rough edges. This resembles the profile of some recent official bottlings.
Score: 69 points - certainly not boring, but it's not quite refined enough for a score in the 70's.
Edradour 30yo 1973/2003 (53.4%, OB, Butt #97)
Nose: Very well balanced with plumes and organics. Hints of 'Maggi'. A very pleasant surprise.
Taste: was very satisfying as well; pretty much everything there. This is good stuff.
Score: 88 points - without a doubt the best Edradour I've tried so far...
Edradour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, Pernod Ricard)
Nose: Unbalanced start with sour vomit notes. Soapy. Sherried. Farmy, organic notes. Woody. Sweet.
Dusty. Interesting development; very sour after 10 minutes. Later on more smoke emerges - and more soap.
Meanwhile the sherry notes grow stronger. Lemon sweets after 20 minutes. Nuttier with 5 drops of water.
Taste: Ough! Very strange at the start. Soap. Molasses & Mint. Eucalyptus? Malty. Slightly oily. Old vomit.
Rotting wood. A very unpleasant chemical undercurrent. Bitter. With time, it grows even worse. Stomach acid.
Score: 42 points - the taste of this whisky is really horrific! Batch variation or a bad cork?
Edradour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998, Campbell, 70cl)
Nose: Soft and malty. Nothing offensive in the nose, but nothing to fall in love with either.
Taste: Malty and smooth. It reminded me a bit of the Dufftown 10yo OB - but less complex.
Score: 70 points - just a few points below average. Perfectly drinkable but no high flyer.
Apart from the main 'brand' Edradour, the distillery also produces the peatier Ballechin whisky;
Ballechin NAS '5th Release' Marsala Cask Matured' (46%, OB, Peated, Bottled 2010)
Nose: Light, sweet, spicy peat. Refreshing! Quite sweet as well. A whiff of warm milk. Nice development.
More meaty notes emerge after five minutes. It grows more austere over time with more organics.
Taste: Sweet and peaty start, followed by a smokier centre. It reminded me of a young Laphroaig.
The accent moves further towards smoke and tar later on. The sweetness lingers in the finish for a long time.
Score: 85 points - this is by far my favourite release so far; each one is better than the last!
Ballechin NAS '4th Release' Oloroso Sherry Casks Matured (46%, OB, Bottled 2009, 6000 Bts.)
Nose: Solid and malty with diesel and peat emerging after a few seconds. Fruity undercurrent.
Industrial oil; like the repair area of a garage. Lots of rough edges, but they add to the charm.
The oily aspect grows more organic over time. Funny how some Edradour spirit traits shine through.
Taste: Dry, leathery start. Black fruits. Smoke. Explosion of freshness in the centre, dry again in the finish.
Score: 82 points - good stuff; this fourth batch is the second batch I would actually recommend myself.
Ballechin NAS '3rd Release' (46%, OB, Port Cask matured, Bottled 2008, 6000 Bts.)
Nose: Meaty start. Hint of oil? It starts off quite promising, but there's not much development over time.
Well, there's a very faint trace of fruits as well after a few minutes. Rough fruitiness, like fresh fruit spirit.
No wait, after 10 minutes it opens up a little, although it remains quite subtle. Slowly climbs into the lower 80's.
Taste: More smoky than peaty at first. Very dry centre, but oddly enough it softens out in the finish.
Score: 80 points - as far as I'm concerned this works a little better than last year's Madeira cask finish.
Ballechin NAS '2nd Release' (46%, OB, Madeira Cask matured, Bottled 2007)
Nose: Phew… Sourish and oily - rotting milk powder? Something herbal.
Smells immature - but interesting and quite unique. nice effort; falls just short of recommendable
Taste: Gentle peaty start, followed by a smoky centre and loads of liquorice on the palate. Smoky finish.
Not from Islay? Might have made it to the 80's on the palate alone. Funny to see the batches improve.
Score: 79 points - the nose is just a little too weird for me to actively recommend this one.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Edradour 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 Edradour page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Edradour 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.)
With reported phenol levels of somewhere around 50PPM
Ballechin is one of the most heavily peated malts produced
outside the island of Islay. The thirst for peated malts has
grown so much that they can't make enough on Islay anymore.
Together with the wide range of special finishes
in obscure casks, Edradour now offers one of
the most varied finish portfolio's in Scotland. Their 'brand consistency' is an altogether different
issue. These days Edradour doesn't seem to have its own 'house style' anymore...
The square feet of the distillery buildings?
Surface of the distillery grounds? Annual output?
I don't have exact figures, but I imagine Daftmill or Kilchoman could make claims of their
own in this area nowadays, and the production capacity of Bladnoch is quite limited too.
2002 - Andrew Symington (the man behind the Signatory Vintage independent bottler) buys the Edradour distillery from Pernod Ricard and puts
Ian Henderson (the old distillery manager of Laphroaig) in charge.
2003 - They start experimenting with the distillation of a heavily peated (50 ppm) spirit at Edradour distillery.
This spirit will later be marketed under the name 'Ballechin'.
2006 - The first edition of the Ballechin is released and James McGowan takes over as distillery manager.
2010 - By the time that the 5th release of Ballechin is released, it has grown into a true rival for Islay malts.
Unfortunately, at the same time some Edradour bottlings strayed from the trail towards perfection.
The Edradour distillery is located on the edge of the Southern Highlands,
better known as the Midlands. Bottlings have been released onder the
name Edradour, but in the past some batches were bottled as 'Glenforres'.
A more heavily peated 'Balechin' variety has become available as well.
The name Edradour is first mentioned in 1837, but a 'farm' distillery under
the name Glenforres was founded in or around 1825. At one time many of
these small distillery were operational in Perthshire, but Edradour is the
only one to survive to this day. Until Kilchoman on Islay became operational
in 2005, Edradour could claim to be Scotland's smallest distillery with an
annual production capacity of a mere 90,000 litres (just like Kilchoman).
Lately, more small distilleries like Daftmill and Loch Ewe were opened.
Is the distillery or