Glen Albyn (Pronounced: Glen AOL-bin)
Highlands (North) - some say Speyside (Inverness)
Glen Mhor, Millburn, Glen Ord, Royal Brackla
Closed - demolished
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
Diageo / DCL / UDV
Great North Road, Inverness, IV3 5LU (B&Q Store)
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
The Glen Albyn distillery was located west of Inverness, making it a
Northen Highlander by most accounts. However, whisky writer Michael
Jackson felt that Glen Albyn was in fact a Speyside distillery. That's a
bit strange, because he classified Glen Ord (located just a drunken
crawl to the north) as a Northern Higlander.
Glen Albyn was founded in 1844 by James Sutherland, a Mayor of
Inverness. The distillery was opened in October of that year, but it
wasn't until 1846 that production began. The prospects looked good
indeed; the region around Inverness supplies most of the Northern
Highlands & Hebrides with malted barley, so Glen Albyn had access
to ample supplies of raw materials. Rumour has it that Mr. Sutherland
ran into some financial problems about a decade later; the distillery
was silent for a while before it was converted into a flour mill.
Because of its location in the centre of an important
barley producing region, the city of Inverness used to have
a lot of local breweries in the distant past. However, that
changed in 1745 - still remembered by many Gaelics as
"Bliadhna Theārlaich" (Charles' Year). The 'rising' of the
Jacobites failed at one of the results was that many of the
breweries of Inverness were closed. (In fact, Glen Albyn
distillery was built on the ruins of an old malt kiln.)
After being used as a flour mill for a few years, Glen Albyn returned to its roots; the production of grainy alcoholic
beverages. The distillery was rebuilt and re-established
by new owners Gregory & Co. in 1884. Not long after the
re-launch, the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century had
started to develop, so in 1891 the Glenalbyn Distillery
Company was founded and in 1892 the nearby Glen Mhor
distillery was built by John Birnie (manager at Glen Albyn).
undertook the Glen Mhor enterprise together with blender
James Mackinlay. The fates of the two whisky distilleries remained
intertwined for almost a century; the Glen Albyn distillery was closed in
1983 and together with neighbor Glen Mhor it was demolished in 1986
or 1988 to make way for a shopping complex.
But I'm getting ahead of myself; we were discussing Glen Albyn...
Although Gregory & Co had already purchased the distillery in 1884,
whisky production wasn't resumed until 1891. When they actually
started producing malt whisky again, they did so with the help of the
most sophisticated equipment that was available at the time. At the
time, whisky writer Alfred Barnard wrote: "The condensing Worms are
of the latest and best approved style, each still has from 300 feet to 400
feet of worm pipes; these worts, after the first few rounds, each branch
into two smaller pipes, and, instead of being of the usual round form, are
shaped like the letter D, having the flat side down. The reason for this is
obvious, the spirit which at first rises in steam is condensed into liquid by
the time it reaches these smaller pipes, and having to run on the flat
bottom of these is spread over a much larger surface than if running in
round pipes, and thereby gives a greater increase in the cooling power,
which is a most important factor in the making of a good Whisky. The
stills, which were manufactured by Fleming, Bennet & McLaren, of
Glasgow, are of the most improved and modern style."
Between 1917 and 1919, the Glen Albyn distillery was closed and
used as a US Naval base for the production of anti-submarine nets
and sea mines. Mackinlays & Birnie (who already owned the nearby
Glen Mhor distillery) purchased Glen Albyn in 1920. They ran it until
1972 when the business was gobbled up by the DCL (Distillers
Company Limited; one of Diageo's predecessors) in 1972.
Like so many large corporations, DCL was mostly interested in minimising production costs.
In 1980 they decided to stop using the Saladin box maltings at Glen Albyn and three years later the crisis in the
whisky industry lead to the closure of the entire distillery in 1983. Nowadays, Glen Albyn is mostly of interest to
completists - only a handful of the circa three dozen expressions the maniacs have tried so far scored in the eighties.
So, it would be wise to check the malt maniacs monitor before investing your money in a bottle you found in a store
or on eBay. Many bottles of Glen Albyn malt whisky are below par...
1) The name Glen Albyn means 'Great Glen' in Gaelic.
2) The Glen Albyn malt whisky distillery was built on the ruins of an old malt kiln.
3) There actually have been two distilleries with the name 'Glen Albyn' - possibly not on the same site.
The first distillery was destroyed by fire in 1849 and eventually converted into a flour mill.
4) Glen Albyn distillery used to have its own railway, which was linked to the main Highland Railway Company line.
5) The peat for Glen Albyn was sourced from Dava Moor; the water source was Loch Ness.
6) The wash still (with a capacity of 1.800 gallons) and spirit still (capacity 1.500 gallons) were both converted to steam heating
in 1964. The annual output of the distillery was just 75,000 gallons; circa 350,000 litres of whisky.
That means that its modest output was comparable with that of the Glenturret distillery today.
Glen Albyn 33yo 1974/2008 (58.9%, The Clydesdale Company, C#0016/1601, 248 Bts.)
Nose: Grain aroma's. Subtle medicinal notes emerge after a minute, evolving into organics over time.
Quite unique. Bakery aroma's emerging over time. Whiff of menthol in the background. Light Jamaican Rhum?
Sweeter with a generous dash of water with some subtle smoke emerging. It releases more organics too.
Taste: Medium start, growing very fruity - evolved, 'tertiary' fruits. Hint of pine? Heavy 'legs' in the glass.
Powerful tannins take over in the drying finish. A little odd, but it grew on me over time. Better with water.
Score: 85 points - a very impressive score for a whisky from such an 'obscure' distillery.
Glen Albyn 25yo 1979/2005 (56%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#3958)
Nose: Fresh. Hint of lemon. Sweet. Sunlight soap. It may be very rare, but it's not too expressive...
Taste: Peculiar. Very herbal. Sweet. Weird fruits. Pine. An aspirin astringency in the finish that pulls is down.
Score: 58 points - rare indeed, but you should look further if you're looking for a good malt whisky.
Glen Albyn 26yo 1975/2002 (54.8%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Sweet & creamy. Bakery aroma's. Organics. Very enjoyable, but desintegrates mostly with water.
Taste: Sweet start, malty centre at cask strength. Hot and quite gritty. Farmier with water. Very good.
Score: 85 points - without a shadow of a doubt the very best Glen Albyn out of the eight I've tried by 2006.
Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1952)
Nose: Sweet, flowery & spicy at first. Then grainier and organic elements. Apple. Coastal traits take over.
Taste: Dry. Light start, growing maltier and more powerful. Liquorice. Quite gritty. Woody finish. Tired cask?
Score: 76 points - which might not seem that impressive, but it's not that bad for Glen Albyn.
Glen Albyn 1973/1998 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice)
Nose: Light and slightly fruity. Vase water. Sublimally interesting. Mellows out. Subtle, but it grew on me.
Taste: Pine in the start. Woody and just a tad bitter. A good drinking whisky but too MOTR for my tastes.
Score: 73 points - just below average, like many other Connoisseur's Choice bottlings of the period.
Glen Albyn 15yo 1980/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #2950-51)
Nose: Dusty. Watery. Chloride. Grows more suggestive - but never really delivers.
Taste: Flat and woody. Harsh, burning centre and finish. Juts a hint of herbs in this whisky perhaps?
Score: 56 points - another disappointing whisky produced at Glen Albyn, I'm sorry to report...
Glen Albyn 10yo (40%, Noord's Wijnhandel, Bottled 1990's?)
Nose: Very light. Flat, grainy and slightly oily. Grassy. Over time it becomes a little nuttier. Hint of peat?
Taste: Sweet start, growing dustier and grittier. Slightly oily. Flat. Dry and grainy. Mwaah...
Score: 60 points - and please keep in mind that I was feeling relatively generous with this Glen Albyn.
MIND YOU - THIS BOTTLING OF GLEN ALBYN WHISY COULD VERY WELL HAVE BEEN A 'FAKE'...
Glen Albyn 20yo 1969/1989 (55%, Signatory Vintage, cask #483-484, Dist. 14/2/69, Bottled 8/89)
Nose: Quite fruity with a solid dose of sherry. Then more organics emerge. Very quick development.
Antracite? Rotting peaches. Bakery aroma's. Strange - it seems to switch between multiple personalities.
It had moments when I was inclined to go for the upper 80's, other moments it barely reached average.
You have to pay attention, though. After some fifteen minutes it's pretty much dead. A strange one...
Taste: Solid, sweet start at cask strength. Solid, sweet and malty centre. Hot, fruity finish. A bit weird.
The finish is very long, the problem is that it's a bit winey and metallic. Even the faintest hint of peat?
Not really my type of finish - but like the nose the character seemed to change constantly. Weird....
Score: 80 points - interesting enough to give it the most lukewarm of recommendations.
It really drops off at the end of the finish, but the nose of this whisky is extremely interesting.
Glen Albyn 20yo 1963/1984 (46%, Cadenhead's, Dumpy)
Nose: Haha! Some old bottle effect here as well. Nice! Eh, excuse my French, but is that horse dung?
Very interesting. It doesn't seem very accessible at first, but it has a lot to offer. Opens op brilliantly.
Old fashioned menthol sweets? Sweetening out into aÂ kaleidoscope of fragrances. Very pleasant indeed.
Taste: Leather with hints of liquorice and smoke in the background. Feels a tad thin and gritty.
The finish is chewy and very solid though... Also, the taste improves significantly with some breathing.
Score: 86 points - which makes it the very best bottling of Glen Albyn I've ever had! Two others came very close though; the Glen Albyn 33yo 1974/2008 (58.9%, Clydesdale) and a 26yo Rare Malts from 2002.
Glen Albyn 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled 1960's)
Nose: Roses. Extremely subtle - might as well have been a blend. The faintest hint of peat?
Taste: Smooth and drinkable, with faint peat on the palate too. Dry, bitter finish. A downbeat ending...
Score: 64 points - but Serge, who is a more generous scorer, seemed to pick up much more to love here.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Albyn 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 Glen Albyn page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Glen Albyn expressions that were released in the past. 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