When Malt Madness was launched in 1995, Scotch malt whisky were a class above all other spirits and beverages,
at least the ones that I could afford and knew about at the time. However, my explorations of the whisky world have
broadened my perspective and lead to many new discoveries.
Unfortunately, I simply don’t have enough time to cover them all.
The Scotch whisky industry alone has grown much more complex
over the recent decades. Furthermore, many other countries are
now making great whisky. During the reconstruction, I’ll have to
keep the focus of Malt Madness on Scotland.
The ‘top layer’ of the Scotch malt whisky industry consists
of about a dozen corporations and conglomerates that own
roughly 95% of all production capacity of Scotch malt whisky.
The remaining distilleries are owned by ‘single owners’.
For the purposes of this overview, I’ve only included the
distilleries that have proven themselves by producing at
least one commercially available bottling of malt whisky.
Because the SWA requires Scotch malt whisky to be at
least 3 years old, a dozen ‘upstarts’ are not on the list yet.
The same goes for dozens of ‘silent stills’ - distilleries
that have been decommissioned or even demolished.
Do you know how many active Scotch malt whisky distilleries there are?
Well, I do have a number for you - but I should add that the exact number
depends on what your definition of an active Scotch malt whisky distillery is.
- Blair Athol
- Caol Ila
- Glen Elgin
- Glen Ord
- Glen Spey
- Roseisle (*)
- Royal Lochnagar
- Highland Park (70%)
- Macallan (75%)
- Isle of Jura
- Glen Scotia
- Loch Lomond
The picture at the right shows (part of) the Scotch whisky industry as it once was.
In those days, the distillery and the company owning it were often the same thing.
This overview of distillery ownership was updated on May 1, 2017.
Please let me know if you feel that I don’t have all my facts straight (yet)...
With regards to the distillery ownership overview above, this would make Diageo, Interbev,
Pernod Ricard and Moët Hennessy conglomerates. William Grant & Sons and the Edrington
group are more like corporations while companies like Ian Macleod, Angus Dundee, Burn
Stewart and the Benriach Distillery Company seem most directly involved with operations.
In 2015, 'mother company' Distell owned 'daughter company' Burn Stewart Distillers that owns
several distilleries, including Tobermory, which also produces the Ledaig 'brand’ or 'product type'.
Meanwhile, some independent bottlers are also blenders and some have their own whisky shops.
And now ‘independent bottlers’ Adelphi and Gordon & MacPhail also have their own distilleries.
Today’s reality is very different. First of all there’s globalisation - but I’ll get to that later.
Looking at just the whisky distilleries in Scotland, there were a number of traditional roles that
have often (partially) merged; bonders, blenders and brokers are often colleagues these days.
So, I guess that some of these concepts are slowly becoming meaningless.
Nevertheless, as a person with some autistic traits I always find it extremely satisfying if
I’m able to fit things into some sort of logical system, model or matrix. That’s why I’ll try to
use three different phrases discriminitely when discussing the industry on Malt Madness:
A large cluster of companies with interests in several industries
A group of companies focusing on one of just a few industries
An organisation that owns and operates a distillery or facility
Arbikie - Arbikie (est. 2014) is also a working farm (near Dundee).
Blackwood - It was supposed to produce whisky eventually, but didn’t.
Bladnoch - Mothballing and a new regime means different Bladnoch.
Dalmunach - This Pernod Ricard / Chivas venture is just starting.
Dornoch - This is a fairly vague crowd funded project.
Eden Mill - This distillery (est. 2014) is also a brewery.
Falkirk - This project is built on the remains of Rosebank distillery.
GlenWyvis - This is the world’s 1st community owned distillery.
Huntly - The ‘working name’ for Duncan Taylor’s new project.
Kingsbarns - I don’t think this new distillery released whisky yet.
Roseisle - As far as I know, Roseisle has not been bottled yet.
Torabhaig - Construction on the Isle of Skye started in 2014.
The distillery ownership overview above lists ‘active distilleries’ - i.e.
the Scotch malt whisky distilleries which have already legally produced
a single malt whisky. By law, whisky must be at least three years old.
So, distilleries that were founded less than three years ago (and those
that have chosen not to release a malt yet) are not considered active.
This ‘shortlist’ doesn’t cover all new distillery activity in Scotland.
Check out the page about new Scotch whisky distillery projects for details.