Dailuaine distillery (or Dailuainne) was built in 1852 by William Mackenzie.
When William passed away in 1865 his widow Jane decided to lease Dailuaine to a banker
from Aberlour, James Fleming. In 1879 Jane's son Thomas formed 'Mackenzie & Company'
together with James Fleming.
Between 1884 and 1887 Dailuaine was rebuilt and expanded, making it one of the
largest distilleries in the Highlands at the time. In 1889 Dailuaine was the very first Scotch
distillery to be fitted with a 'pagoda' or ‘cupola’ type ventilator designed by Charles Doig.
In 1890 or 1891 the existing partnership was converted into another company.
The Dailuaine-Glenlivet Distillery Ltd. merged with the Talisker Distillery Ltd.on Skye
and (among others) the Imperial distillery in Speyside to form a brand new company;
Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Co Ltd. (established in 1898).
Many distilleries followed suit and these days the pagoda or cupola ventilator has
become more or less the 'traditional' shape. Famous distilleries like Aberlour, Ardbeg
and Benriach all have a kiln with pagoda / cupola ventilators on the top of the chimney.
This merger in 1998 sent shockwaves through the whisky world.
Although Diageo is by far the largest 'player' in the industry
measured in number of distilleries, the distance to number 2
Pernod Ricard measured in production capacity isn't that significant.
A fire in 1917 destroyed part of the distillery, including the historical pagoda roof.
Dailuaine was forced to close, but reopened again in 1920. Four decades later, in 1960,
the distillery was expanded from four to six stills and the floor maltings were
replaced by a so-called 'Saladin Box'. The Saladin Box (named after its inventor
Charles Saladin) is a big, flat device that revolutionised the whisky industry.
A Saladin Box mechanically turns the germinating barley inside and allows air to pass through it.
In 1965 the stills at Dailuaine were converted to internal (steam) heating. This made the process
more efficient, but many experts believe that the indirect firing of stills that was used by most
distilleries in the past allowed for more variation - and therefor more interesting whiskies.
The Saladin Box at Dailuaine was closed in 1983 when the distillery started to purchase its
malted barley from one of the large 'industrial' maltings. The Dailuaine-Talisker distillery had
become a subsidiary of the DCL in 1925, although the distillery was run by SMD for decades.
Just like many other distilleries, Dailuaine became part of industry giant Diageo when UD
(United Distillers, part of the Guiness Group) merged with International Distillers & Vintners
(IDV, part of Grand Metropolitan).
In 2005, Diageo owned 27 malt whisky distilleries.
Their total production capacity at the time was 60,000,000 litres of pure alcohol
per year (which was a little over 25% of the total malt whisky industry capacity).
Pernod Ricard's production capacity actually isn't very far behind Diageo's.
More than 20% of the Scotch whisky industry's annual output comes from their
13 distilleries, which produced over 45,000,000 litres of pure alcohol in 2005.
Even cask strength whiskies are not made up of pure alcohol, so when diluted
those 45 million litres equal roughly 100 million bottles of whisky. The annual
output of Pernod Ricard's distillery could keep a small country inebriated full time.
But wait - I'm getting side-tracked; Dailuaine is owned by industry leader Diageo.
Even after Diageo expanded the ‘1980s’ range of 6 Classic Malts around 2004,
Dailuaine wasn't included in their revamped 'Classic malts Selection'.
The original range of Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker was expanded with
Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Glen Elgin, Glen Ord, Knockando and Royal Lochnagar in the new millennium. That's
a grand total of 13 malt whisky distilleries that made the selection. Dailuaine wasn't so fortunate, and the same goes
for other distinguished distilleries like Auchroisk, Benrinnes, Blair Athol, Dufftown, Linkwood and Mortlach - as well
as slightly less distinguished distilleries like Glendullan, Inchgower, Mannochmore, Strathmill and Teaninich.
Dailuaine is located in the central Speyside region,
close to Benrinnes, Glenfarclas and Imperial.
There used to be an actual ‘Dailuaine Halt’ near the
distillery, so at one point one could visit by making
a trip on the Strathspey railway. Needless to say,
the railway also played an important part in the
economical viability of Dailuaine in the past.
It is possible to visit Dailuaine but as far as I know
you need to make an appointment for a tour.
1) Around 2005, only 2% of Dailuaine distillery's output was
bottled as a single malt whisky. Nevertheless, the distillery is
one of the biggest in Diageo's portfolio, measured in production
capacity. At the time, only Dufftown, Glendullan, Caol Ila,
Clynelish and Glen Ord had a larger (potential) output within
the Diageo 'stable'. With that impressive production capacity
in mind, it's surprising that Dailuaine has such a 'low profile'....
2) Dailuaine is one of the ‘workhorses’ of Diageo, there is
also a dark grains plant on the distillery grounds.
6) By far most of the malt whisky distilled at Dailuaine ends up in the Johnnie Walker blends.
3) There are eight granite warehouses on the Dailuaine
distillery site - but they are no longer used.
4) Dailuaine distillery has a so-called full lauter mash tun.
The wash (wort before the production of yeast) is processed in eight washbacks made out of larch wood.
5) Despite a large production capacity, Dailuaine only had six stills - 3 wash stills and 3 spirit stills.
7) In 1991 the very first semi-official bottling of Dailuaine is released in the 'Flora & Fauna' range.
2000 - After a Dailuaine 16yo 'Flora & Fauna' bottling that
was released in 1991, hardly any official bottlings appeared
for roughly a decade. In 2000 that changed when a 17yo
'Manager's Dram' (aged in sherry casks) was released.
2012 - The production capacity at Dailuaine is increased
by 25%. Because the number of stills remained constant at
six, they either installed bigger stills or changed their work
schedule to use the equipment more efficiently. Nevertheless,
single malt bottlings remain relatively rare.
2014 - Apart from a ‘sulpury’ style of malt whisky (produced thanks to the stainless steel condensers), Dailuaine
provided blenders with two main styles; ‘grassy’ and ‘nutty’. In 2014 they also included a ‘waxy’ malt whisky to their
portfolio, allowing their product to be used in even more blended whiskies.
2006 - The steel condensers that were used for a few
years at Dailuaine distillery are removed.
Dailuaine 27yo 1983/2011 (53.6%, Master of Malt, 231 Bts.)
Nose: Polished. Old style 'speculaas' cookies. Not too expressive, but a lovely classic Speyside profile.
Palate: Very nice, and it matches the nose closely. Some chalk and aspirin in the relatively short finish.
Score: 83 points - recommendable, but this whisky doesn't quite deliver the nasal promises on the palate.
Dailuaine 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Casks, Sherry, 700 Bts.)
Nose: Light, subtle fruits over a more serious undercurrent. Something nutty too.
Growing complexity, with more fruits and spices emerging. Perhaps a hint of sulphur?
Taste: Round and smooth like an Irish or grain whisky. Lovely fruity centre.
Score: 82 points - the finish is fairly short finish but is has a long, pleasant afterburn.
Dailuaine 11yo 1997/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)
Nose: Prickly, sourish, feels quite young - more like a 7yo or 8yo malt. Really not my kind of whisky.
Taste: Fairly weak start, hardly any sweetness. Loads of beer notes in the finish.
Score: 67 points - but I should mention that all other maniacs that tried it gave it a higher score.
Dailuaine 10yo 1996/2007 Medoc Finish (50%, Chieftain's, C#90421/90422, 618 Bts.)
Nose: Light & fruity start. Rubber? Spicier after a few minutes. Nice development for such a young whisky.
Taste: Fairly weak start, the wood takes over quickly. Sweet centre. Strong tannins in the finish.
A hint of rubber here as well? I like that in an Islay malt whisky, but not always so much in lighter whiskies.
Score: 80 points - certainly not boring and recommendable, especially compared to many other wine finishes.
Dailuaine 31yo 1973/2005 (47.8%, The Whisky Fair, Sherry Butt #14739, 204 bottles)
Nose: Mellow, thoughtful start. Sweet with a hint of dust. Cotton candy. Hint of mint?
Then more organics. Vegetable stock. Much more power in the nose after some breathing.
Classic sherry development, but maybe a little more stand-offish than some sherry monsters.
Again a hint of dust. Meaty. Brilliant! Hey, could that be the faintest whiff of peat smoke?
The nose keeps developing and surprising you at every turn. Definitely 90's material!
Taste: Quite soft in the start. Very sweet as well. Big, fruity centre. Smoke? Lovely.
Hint of something metallic. I love this stuff, it has just enough 'sharp edges' for me.
Score: 90 points - right up my alley and if anything I'd say this is a conservative score.
Dailuaine 1975/2003 (46%, Berry Bros, Cask #5539)
Nose: Remarkably soft and light. Flowery with a hint of apple at first, then sweeter & spicier.
It shows growing complexity over time. Something softly medicinal in the background.
Taste: Remarkably soft as well and growing sweeter over time. Definitely recommendable.
Score: 82 points - a great choice if you 'have' to drink in the morning.
Dailuaine 1974/2001 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, code IH/CJI)
Nose: Very rich, but subtle at the same time. Round. Polished oak. Tea. Toffee.
Fruit cake and rhum. It smells a lot like the old candy store I used to visit as a kid.
Earthy with more organics after a while. Some smoke? Mighty pleasant.
Taste: Fruity and woody with a hint of liquorice. It suggests a power beyond its 40%.
Slightly nutty. An excellent palate for a malt this age. Bottled at just the right time it seems.
Score: 84 points - more expressive than many other Connoisseur's Choice bottlings I've tried.
Dailuaine 16yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Badger on the label, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Sherry. A hint of smoke. Grassy after a while. Flattens out after a few minutes.
Not unlike the Benrinnes in the same 'Flora & Fauna' range, but toned down a notch.
Taste: Sherry sweetness. Woody. A bit malty. Fruitier over time. Smoke. A big burn.
Great development! Complexity. Oak and sherry in the finish, but caramel sweetness as well.
Conclusion: 80 points - this is one of the few malts that tastes better than it smells.
Dailuaine 22yo 1973 (61.8%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Ooh, very pleasant. Sweet and slightly dusty. Spicy with a suggestion of fruits.
Light organics. Hint of vegetables. Cake. Rum. Not terribly complex, but very attractive.
Faint smoke. Hint of peat? A splash of water didn't really seem to change the aroma.
Taste: Sweet and fruity at cask strength. Smooth start. Apple? Good body. Cake?
Becomes hotter and flatter with water, it seems. Gritty and bitter with time. Too bad.
This one reminds me of last month's Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UD Rare Malts).
Score: 85 points - I'd recommend it with more persistence and tenacity than other maniacs.
Dailuaine 12yo (62.4%, James MacArthur, C#6911, Bottled circa 1989)
Nose: Smooth, round and slightly sweet. Hint of honey. Gentle and very pleasant.
The nose doesn't betray the high proof at first. When it started to I added water.
Hmmm. Now some organics pop up. And now they disappear again, leaving little complexity.
Taste: A big burn with a surprisingly strong peaty streak. No peat monster, of course.
Sweeter start with some water. Hint of liquorice. Still, it remains rough with water.
Score: 81 points - I couldn't go higher than that after the fairly rough 'plywood' finish.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Dailuaine malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Dailuaine I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Dailuaine.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.