Or better yet, if money is no objection (or if you at least have some
discretionary cash to throw around), check out the Hit List for a few
single malts whiskies that are among my purely personal favourites.
After I had decided that I needed to sample at least six
different expressions from every active malt distillery in
Scotland, I expanded the scope of my whisky mission.
But why did my 'to do list' only include the active malt
whisky distilleries in Scotland? Well, with every cask of
Ladyburn or Glen Flagler that gets bottled (and drunk), potential new bottlings from that silent distillery will
become rarer - and therefor more expensive.
After basking in the glow of triumph for roughly 2 or 3
seconds, a sobering insight dawned on me. I realised
that the distillery where a whisky was born (and the
region in Scotland where it's located) is just one factor.
Maybe trying to say anything 'serious' about a distillery in Scotland after
having sampled three different bottlings is almost just as mad as trying
to say anything after tasting just one expression. Nevertheless, sampling
a statistically significant number of different bottlings from each distillery
(let's say a dozen) is simply beyond the stretch of my wallet.
So, I decided fairly arbitrarily on my goal during phase III of my mission;
trying to sampling six (or more) bottlings from every active distillery in
Scotland. It took me a few years to accomplish this goal - but after I did,
I finally felt that I could begin to express some of my personal opinions
about the character & quality of the 'average' whisky from that distillery.
Just see the Distillery Data Overview as a 'elementary distillery guide'.
I'll try to keep the pages as up-to-date as possible, but it's hard to keep
track of the status of some distilleries. I use the world wide web for much
of my 'research', but sometimes I'm confronted with conflicting information.
Just before I added this page to the site (autumn of 2002) I learned that
Allt-A-Bhainne, Benriach, Braes of Glenlivet and Caperdonich were being
mothballed. But when I went on-line to check the validity of the data I
found out that lots of other whisky websites still listed these distilleries
as 'active'. Well, that's just aggravating...
Of course, the malt maniacs were alarmed. When malt maniac Serge
Valentin asked Pernod Ricard about these mothballings, they replied;
"We are committed to the long term growth of the Scotch Whisky business and the development of our brands. Following the completion of a review of our distilling operations, Chivas Brothers will concentrate the production of its premium blended and malt whiskies at six distilleries: Aberlour, Glenallachie, The Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Strathisla and Longmorn. In order to balance customer requirements, inventory levels and sales forecasts, this will involve the temporary closure of the distilling facilities at Allt a Bhainne, Braeval, Benriach and Caperdonich. Whilst there are no immediate plans for the reopening of these four facilities, they are not being permanently closed and remain in our plans as we look to grow our business and to maintain the high quality..." <snip>
That was in 2002 - it goes without saying I have mixed feelings
about the game of mothball that's been
going on. But as sad as I feel about the disappearance of active distilleries from the Scottish landscape,
it would make my 'job' a lot easier. I wouldn't have to sample any bottlings from these silent distilleries
during phase II & III of my own 'Scotland by Dram' project - well, at least not until they're revived again.
And actually, that's what happened in many cases. When I wrapped up an update of this page in 2009,
Allt-A-Bhainne, Benriach and Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval) all had been revived; only Caperdonich has
remained mothballed. Given the credit crisis that hit the world in the late noughties, it doesn't seem
very likely that Caperdonich will be revived any time soon. If earlier experiences with other closed
distilleries are any indication, the longer a distillery remains inactive, the less likely a revival becomes.
Fortunately, it's not all about death and destruction in Scotland. Take Bladnoch, for example.
This Lowland distillery was mothballed by UDV in 1993, but revived again by Raymond Armstrong in
1999. Or take Balmenach - another success story. The distillery was mothballed in 1993, but Inver
House bought it in 1997 and production resumed again in March 1998. They now produce almost 2
million litres of alcohol each year. When Inver House purchased the distillery from Diageo, they did
not get the maturing stocks so their own official bottling is still quite a few years off, I guess.
And it's not all about reviving lost distilleries either.
There are currently a few exciting new projects in the works, like the Abhainn Dearg distillery ('Red River') on the isle of Lewis or the Kilchoman distillery on Islay. Not all new projects have a good start though; the Blackwood distillery on the Shetlands proved to be a pipe dream and the same might be true for the Ladybank distillery in the Lowlands. Anyway - the 'projects' page provides an up-to-date overview of the new malt whisky distillery projects in Scotland.
As far as active distilleries are concerned, you can find a (hopefully complete) overview at the right.
The links in the list at the left lead to the distillery profiles with some basic statistics like the number of stills, the water source for the distillery, the production capacity, the region, the address, the URL of the website, etcetera. Apart from these statistics you'll find a few paragraphs with a historic overview and tasting notes for at least six bottlings. And did I mention my Track Record already? I don't think I did. The profiles on the active distilleries contain a handful of tasting notes, but my Track Record gives you a full overview of all the Scotch single malt whiskies I've tried during 'a decade of heavy dramming' between 1995 and 2006. When this website finally crashed in 2006, the 'malt mileage'
counter said +/- 2000 Scotch single malt whiskies sampled and scored...
Before I get back to the many other influences
that shape a freshly distilled spirit, I'd like to
point out that the white box at the right shows
all 98 ACTIVE DISTILLERIES IN SCOTLAND .
Scroll down and look to the far left of the page
for a list off ALL of them, including silent stills.
So, 'location' is only one of many, many
different factors that influence a malt whisky.
As it turned out, my research mission had only
just begun... Take the type of cask a whisky
was poured into, for example. Or the time that
it spent in that cask. That's why I decided that
I had to expand my investigation...
The 'malt mania' never stops. After I discovered the
miracles of single malt whisky in the early 1990's I
spent most of that decade trying to track down, nose,
taste and score at least one expression from each
and every active malt whisky distillery in Scotland.
I accomplished this goal around the year 2000.
After I had sampled and scored at least one bottling
from every active distillery around the year 2000, I
briefly believed that I had achieved something special.
Unfortunately, the illusion didn't last for very long...
Ah, I remember it well...
November 11, 2001 seemed like such an historic date at first.
It was the first day that I could proudly say that I had 'seriously'
sampled at least one bottle from every single active malt whisky
distillery in Scotland (and a few silent distilleries as well).
However, it wasn't long afterwards that I realised that there was
actually little reason for pride and joy. Trying to say anything
meaningful about a distillery based on just one bottle of whisky
is pure and utter madness . Although 'madness' is exactly what
this website is all about, I'm actually quite serious when it comes
to my single malt whisky research...
Well, at least this used to be the case during the height of my malt
mania in the late 1990's. Even at the start of this millennium I've seen
very decent bottlings like the Ardbeg 10yo for as little as 25 Euros.
Wow, GREAT VALUE! That's what I'd like to call 'Bang-For-Your-Buck'!
Allt A' Bhainne
Isle of Jura
Apart from the general overview of Scottish distilleries on the main
page, this section contains an overview of whisky brand names, a list
of the main independent bottlers, some ideas about the importance
of whisky regions in Scotland, this page about active distilleries and
a list of the silent stills - distilleries that were closed during the past
decades as well as the freshly started distillery projects in Scotland.
I wouldn't be able to say anything meaningful about a certain malt whisky
distillery until I tried at least half a dozen different expressions. And if
at all possible, I needed to sample both younger and older expressions,
matured in different cask types and sizes.
To keep track of my progress and findings in this matter, I decided to add
a separate Distillery Data section to Malt Madness, which you're looking at.
I guess it all depends on the size of your wallet, but I start to lose
interest myself when the price of a bottle exceed 100 Euros. Because
the chances of finding a bottle of Brora or Port Ellen for less than 100
Euros have grown increasingly slim (unless it's a fake), I tend to spend
most of my money on far more 'mundane' single malts.
Oh, how the times have changed...
Perfume peddlers and carpetbaggers like Louis Vuitton
have taken over legendary distilleries like Ardbeg and the
quality/price ratio of many of my favourite whisky brands has plummeted.
Anyway, just visit the Bang-For-Your-Buck List for more details about
the many frustrations of a price-obsessed, penny-pinching Dutchman.
The other sections of this site look at the 'consumption' end of the
malt whiskworld. By contrast, the 'Distillery Data' section is dedicated
to the 'production' end of things. Here, I try to find out which factors
shape the character of a Scotch malt whisky. In the distillery profiles
I've collected information about the location, history and equipment
of each malt whisky distillery in Scotland, as well as photographs,
trivia, information about the labels, etcetera.
Last but not least, whenever possible I've
added tasting notes on at least a dozen
different expressions from that distillery.
But why at least a dozen different versions, you ask?
Well, the answer to that question lies in the past...
Is the distillery or