Kinclaith (Pronounced: Kin-KLATHE)
Glen Flagler, Auchentoshan, Littlemill, Inverleven
Closed in 1975 (demolished)
1 wash still, 1 spirit still
Whitbread / Long John (since 1989)
40 Moffat Street, Glasgow G5 0QB, Scotland, UK
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
The Strathclyde grain whisky distillery was founded in 1927 by gin producers Seager
Evans, who also founded Long John International Ltd. Confusingly enough, the
Strathclyde distillery is located on Moffat Street in Glasgow - unlike the 'Moffat'
distillery which was located in Airdrie. Seager Evans was founded in 1805 by James
Lys Seager and William Evans who also owned the Millbank gin distillery in London.
When they built Strathclyde, they also founded Long John International Ltd. - which
was a subsidiary set up especially for their Scotch whisky adventures.
Kinclaith distillery was the last malt whisky distillery to be constructed in the
Glasgow area - although it wasn't a traditional distillery building with a pagoda
roof surrounded by quaint dunnage warehouses. The Kinclaith distillery was
constructed inside the Strathclyde grain whisky distillery and only operated
until 1975. That's one of the reasons that the Kinclaith single malt whisky is
extremely difficult to find these days: it only operated for as little as 18 years.
The other main reason for the obscurity of the Kinclaith single malt whisky
was the fact that it was used mainly in blended whiskies by the owners. They
never bothered to release an official bottling of Kinclaith as a single malt whisky.
Even independent bottlers seem to have a hard time securing casks of Kinclaith.
Just like most other grain whisky distilleries, Strathclyde is located in the Lowlands.
The water source is Loch Katrine and I assume that it was used for the Kinclaith
malt whisky as well. Three decades after the Strathclyde distillery was founded the
owners decided to build Kinclaith within the Strathclyde plant. However, in 1975
Long John International became part of Whitbread and the Kinclaith equipment
was removed to make room for more grain whisky production.
I already mentioned the fact that bottlings of Kinclaith are extremely rare;
there are less than a dozen expressions on the Malt Maniacs Monitor. One
of the reasons for this is the fact that the malt whisky was used almost
exclusively for the Long John blended whiskies. Hardly any casks of the
Kinclaith malt whisky were swapped with other blenders and bottlers. This
practice was fairly customary in the whisky industry to help blenders secure
all the 'ingedients' they needed for their blends. Because the 'recipe' for a
particular blend can contain 30 or 40 different malt whiskies, the swapping
of casks was almost inevitable because nobody owns that many distilleries.
Of course, the big question is how the
owners managed to find another malt
whisky to use in their Long John blends.
Ownership of the Strathclyde distillery
was later transferred to Allied, and some
time afterwards (on July 26th 2005, to
be precise) the grain whisky distillery
became part of Pernod Ricard.
With that in mind, it's not surprising that Allied bought the Kinclaith and Long John brands when they acquired the Tormore distillery in 2005. Tormore is probably the most important component of many Long John blends.
Anyway, I already commented on Kinclaith's most remarkable quality: the fact that bottlings are extremely rare. When I checked in 2012, there were less than a dozen bottlings on the Malt Maniacs Monitor - mostly by independent bottlers Duncan Taylor, Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory Vintage. Since the distillery was closed (or rather the special set of pot stills at Strathclyde that was used to produce the Kinclaith malt whisky was dismantled) in 1975, it's highly unlikely that more bottlings will ever be released.
Because bottlings of Kinclaith are so rare, this single malt whisky commands a high price when a bottle does come up for auction. If you ask me, it's often not worth it - but then again I'm not a collector. Sure, some bottlings score in the lower 80's, but so do a lot of other, younger and cheaper malt whiskies.
Or other alcoholic beverages for that matter...
But I guess that the thing with collecting whisky isn't really about drinking or enjoying whisky anyway. It's about making sure that other people won't be able to drink or enjoy that whisky - at least not as long as the collector hangs on to that bottle of whisky and doesn't open, share or sell it...
Anyway, that's all the information about Kinclaith that I've been able to scrape together. If you scroll down, you'll find my tasting notes for six bottlings that I've had the fortune of sampling. I probably won't get to taste any others...
1) Kinclaith is one of a handful of whisky distilleries in Glasgow. Because I couldn't find a lot of trivia about the Kinclaith distillery, I looked around for some interesting trivia about Glasgow. The raincoat was invented in 1824 by Charles Macintosh, a chemist born in Glasgow. In Great Britain and Scotland, this clothing is still called a "Mac".
2) Scotland is relatively sparsely populated - it has approximately 167 people living per square mile.
Many of those people are relatively easy to spot though - Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in the world. Around 13 per cent of the population suffers from red hair, with 40 per cent carrying the recessive gene.
3) Scotland has three official languages - English, Scottish and Scottish Gaelic.
These days, only one percent of the Scottish population actually uses the Scottish Gaelic language.
4) Three of Scotland's most famous inventions – kilts, tartans & bagpipes - were actually developed elsewhere.
Kilts originated in Ireland, tartans have been found in Bronze Age central Europe and bagpipes are thought to have come from ancient central Asia. They were elevated to Scottish cultural symbols by expat Scots living in London.
5) Whitbread is currently the UK's largest hotel and restaurant company.
6) The Strathclyde grain whisky distillery produces circa 40 million litres of alcohol each year.
7) Maturing casks of the Kinclaith malt whisky were probably warehoused in Glasgow.
8) The brand Long John is used for both blended whiskies and vatted malt whiskies.
Kinclaith 36yo 1969/2005 (50,1%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, Cask 301456, 152 Bottles)
Nose: Deep sweetness at first. Then a lot of other stuff emerges. Discussed it rather than wrote it down.
Taste: Herbal like the Cadenhead's, but with the sweetness the balance is MUCH better now. Sherried.
Score: 85 points - which once again proves that the 20yo Cadenhead's bottling was an exception.
Kinclaith 35yo 1969/2004 (53.2%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#301455, 207 Bottles)
Nose: Liquorice & aniseed. Not terribly expressive. String beans. Hint of oil. Minerals. You have to work at it.
Taste: Pleasant enough, but a little nondescript. Dry and a tad gritty. You can't really taste the age here.
Score: 78 points - a little 'better' than average, but at this age (and price) I would expect something more.
Kinclaith 35yo 1969/2004 (54%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #301443, 217 Bottles)
Nose: Liquorice & aniseed again. Quite subtle. Malty. Paprika. Farmy. Sweaty. Minerals. More oil. Turnip.
Taste: Quite hot and a little gritty. Tannins. Not nearly as interesting on the palate as in the nose, I'm afraid.
Score: 81 points - a class up from the Duncan Taylor bottling, but still not particulary impressive for a 35yo.
Kinclaith 26yo 1975 (52.3%, James McArthur) - sampled on Islay with some other maniacs
Nose: sweet, sherried and polished. Very rich, it reminded me of a tangerine liqueur like Grand Marnier.
Turkish delight. It grew spicier over time. This could very well be my favourite Kinclaith ever.
Taste: I found lots of tangerine on the palate as well. Marmelade; a highly enjoyable interplay of bitter & sweet.
Score: 88 points - a highly satisfying experience, and the highest scoring Kinclaith expression I've found so far.
Kinclaith 20yo (46%, Cadenhead, Black Label, Bottled +/- 1990)
Nose: Light & dusty. Not very expressive. Parafin. Gasoline. Opens up for brief episodes. Hint of peat?
Taste: Extremely herbal at first. Pine and resin. Perfumy. Faintest hint of antiquity. Plywood. Not my type.
Score: 57 points - I actually tried this before and feared I underscored it. I'll stick to my original score.
Kinclaith 1966 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail CC, Old map label, Bottled +/- 1985, 5cl) - a sample from Serge.
Nose: A little creamy, quite sweet and the faintest hint of oil. Then more organics emerge.
Growing complexity over time. Mint. Toffee. Subtle - it's hard to describe the other aroma's.
Taste: Oooh... Flat, bitter and a little soapy at first, growing fruitier in the centre. Metallic.
After some time the taste grew on me as well, although the finish is a tad too winey for me.
Score: 81 points - but please note that this one definitely needs some time to get there. The funny thing is that, after I sent Serge my score for the Kinclaith, he told me this had been his 1000th whisky (not exclusively single malts) as well. I didn't know that, but I complement him on his choice.
These were all (official & independent) bottlings of Kinclaith Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
However, 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 Kinclaith page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozen of Kinclaith expressions that were released over the 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