The young distillery had to endure quite a few changes during the early 1900's, including some improvements made by famous architect Charles Doig and more changes in ownership. In 1919 Macdonald Greenlees & Williams Ltd.'s bought Dalwhinnie, but just a few years later (in 1926, to be precise) Macdonald Greenlees were themselves bought by the DCL. Nevertheless, the name Greenless appeared on bottles until at least the early 1980's - perhaps even later.
Dalwhinnie is now owned by UDV, part of Diageo plc. For a long time the only available expressions were the standard 15yo and the 'Distiller's Edition' (double matured). Around 2003, 29yo and 36yo versions were released. I must admit that I haven't tried these yet because, quite frankly, I'm not the biggest Dalwhinnie fan around.
Dalwhinnie is one of Diageo's six 'Classic Malts',
along with Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin,
Oban and Talisker. (These six 'classic malts' have
now been integrated in a larger portfolio called
'Classic Malts Selection). Out of the original six
distilleries, five still use worm tubs - a fairly old
fashioned technique for cooling the vapours
and fresh spirit that has just condensed at the
top of the pot still. A few malt maniacs had the
chance to inspect worm tubs at Edradour in
2003 and on the roof of Oban in 2005.
After the Glenkinchie 10yo, the Dalwhinnie 15yo
is my least favourite classic malt. It's just a little
too smooth and friendly for my tastes. But that's
just my personal opinion; some of my friends
absolutely LOVE the stuff and I have to admit
that it's the perfect dram to pour for people who
are used to drinking blends because it shows
the finesse, smoothness and depth of single
malts versus blends without becoming too
extreme for 'beginners'.
Oddly enough Dalwhinnie was refurbished again in 1992 - to the tune of 3,2 million pounds.
A visitor centre was opened as well. Despite the major refurbishments, Dalwhinnie still uses worm tubs to cool the fresh spirit from the still, just like Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Oban and Talisker.
The DCL first tansffered Dalwhinnie to J.& G. Stewart Ltd. and then to SMD (for Scottish Malt Distilleries) in 1930. Four years later, in February 1934, Dalwhinnie was seriously damaged by a fire and it took another four years to bring the distillery back to life again. Dalwhinnie's two stills started producing whisky again in 1938 and keeps doing so relatively undisturbed for the next few decades. The maltings are decommissioned in 1968 but it isn't until a complete refurbishment in 1986 that the large stills at Dalwhinnie fall (temporarily) silent again.
Dalwhinnie (Pronounced: dal-WHIN-ee)
Western Highlands (some argue 'Speyside')
56°56'18.2256 N, 4°14'33.5544 W
Aberfeldy, Drumguish, Edradour
Allt an t-Sluie Burn
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
1,300,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
UDV / Diageo (since 1926)
Dalwhinnie, Inverness-shire PH19 1AB
Yes - opened in 1992
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2002 - A 36 years old official bottling of Dalwhinnie whisky is launched. A 29yo successor was released in 2003.
2008 - The full production capacity of Dalwhinnie distillery is implemented for the first time in some time.
The number of 'mashes' was increased by 50% from 10 to 15 mashes per week. Virtually all malt whisky that is produced at Dalwhinnie is used for Diageo's own whiskies; independent bottlings are very hard to find.
2010 - Some 70,000 cases of the Dalwhinnie single malt whisky are sold world wide.
The Dalwhinnie distillery is located in the Inverness-shire or
Strathspey area in the western Highlands, but according to
some sources it is a Speyside distillery. Dalwhinnie was built in
1897 by the Strathspey Distillery Co Ltd. under the guidance
of the investors John Grant, Alex Mackenzie and George Sellar.
The bill for the construction work was just 10,000 pounds.
Production at Dalwhinnie started in February 1898 - but the
owners soon encountered finacial problems and the original
name 'Strathspey' was changed to 'Dalwhinnie' when it was
sold to new owners; the aptly named Dalwhinnie Distillery Co.
(The Strathmill distillery is on the other side of Speyside...)
1) Dalwhinnie was part of Diageo's original series of 6 classic 'Classic Malts', together with Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker. This series was first released in 1988. Around 2005 a bunch of other distilleries were added to the range of 'classic malts'; Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Glen Elgin, Glen Ord, Knockando & Royal Lochnagar.
2) Dalwhinnie is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
3) Dalwhinnie distillery has two racked warehouses with room for 5,000 casks of maturing Scotch whisky.
4) In 1905 the Dalwhinny distillery was bought by an American company for the friendly price of 1,250 GBP.
Cook & Bernheimer from New York were the very first foreign owners of a Scottish whisky distillery.
5) Many sources claim that Dalwhinnie is the whisky distillery with the highest elevation in Scotland.
However, the height of the Braeval distillery to the south east seems to be comparable; +/- 355 meters.
6) The Dalwhinnie distillery is one of the few Scotch whisky distilleries still using worm tubs.
Even more unique: the worm tubs at Dalwhinnie are made from wood (they usually are made of metal).
Dalwhinnie 20yo 1986/2006 (56,8%, OB, Refill European Casks)
Nose: Shoe polish. Coffee beans. Faintest hint of smoke. Some spices. Distinguished profile.
Taste: Gentle start, quickly followed by a big fruity attack. Good, solid centre. Toffee. Gentle, chewable tannins.
Score: 86 points - further proof that I DO actually like Dalwhinnie - provided it has been aged for long enough.
This whisky matched the score of the Dalwhinnie 36yo 1966/2002 (47.2%, OB) - my previous favourite bottling.
Dalwhinnie 1989/2004 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, DSL 312, finished in Oloroso sherry casks)
Nose: Sweet & grainy. Smells like a blend, actually. It moves in an oilier direction for a while.
Give it time, though - it becomes spicier with just a hint of organics after some breathing.
Taste: Relatively gritty and not potent enough to lift the overall score above average.
Score: 75 points - an 'average' score, but still my favourite expression of Dalwhinnie so far.
Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Light and grainy with a touch of honey. Faint spices? Remains 'middle of the road'.
Maybe a hint of dust? Some tea. Mild and accessible - and it opens up slightly over time.
More and more tea over time. Mealy apples? And it keeps on opening up - a nice surprise.
Taste: Malty and quite sweet. Not very well defined. Menthol? Some coffee notes, perhaps?
The sweetness vanishes and it grows a tad bitter towards the finish - it loses points here.
Score: 72 points - could it be I'm slowly growing fonder of 'natural' malts? Maybe - slowly.
Dalwhinnie 36yo 1966/2002 (47.2%, OB, 1500 Bottles)
Nose: Rich and velvety. Fruity with just a hint of the farm in the background. Gooseberry. Polished wood.
Taste: Fruity. Smooth start with a dusty afterburn after a few seconds. Sweetness vanishes over time.
Score: 86 points - a very sophisticated malt, but for me it's a tad too bitter in the finish to reach the 90's.
Actually, this might very well be the best Dalwhinnie whisky I've ever tried... Yes, indeed it is!
Dalwhinnie 1981 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, code D.SD.312, finished in Oloroso sherry casks, late 1990's)
Nose: A lot stronger than the standard 15, with much more sherry.
Oloroso. Hay and a hint of liquorice root. A pinch of peat as well.
Taste: A watery start. Slightly sherried. Becomes very toffee-like, then bitter.
Long, oaky finish. Definitely more powerful than the standard 15.
Rating: 74 points - I like it more than the standard version because it demonstrates more character.
That being said, I think it's certainly not worth the money - better go for a 'proper' sherried malt whisky.
Dalwhinnie 15yo 'Centenerary' (43%, OB, 1998)
Nose: A lot of nose - more so than earlier batches? Fresh, and a little chemical.
Just a pinch of peat??? Grassy and slightly oily. Dried apples and peanuts?
The taste is very soft and smooth, a bit malty with a very nice afterburn.
Score: 72 points - a tad more 'up my alley' than earlier batches of this particular whisky.
Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: Flowery and a little grassy at first. A hint of oil, developing into nutty and malty tones.
Hint of honey? Hay? Something very lightly fruity - apples or pears perhaps. A little MOTR.
Taste: Fairly flat at first, becoming a little rounder, maltier and sweeter towards the centre.
Doesn't really leave a lasting impression. Surprisingly hot and dry in the finish.
Score: 71 points - it's just not really my type of malt, I guess. Too much 'one size fits all'.
This batch of Dalwhinnie whisky reminded me a bit of the old Cardhu single malt - maybe a little lighter.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Dalwhinnie 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 Dalwhinnie page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Dalwhinnie 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.)
Is the distillery or