North Port / Brechin (Pronounced: just like it's written)
Glencadam, Fettercairn, Lochside, Hillside / Glenesk
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
Diageo (since 1922)
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2005 - A 28 years old official bottling
of North Port / Brechin is released. According to the Malt Maniacs Monitor, the Brechin 28yo 1977/2005 (53.3%, OB, 2040 Bts.) was the first ever (official) bottling of North Port on record.
2008 - Stocks of North Port / Brechin whisky are diminishing. The two most recent independent bottlings of North Port we know of are released; the North Port 27yo 1981/2008 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#779) and the North Port-Brechin 1982/2008 (43%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice).
The North Port
(a.k.a. Brechin, a.k.a. Townhead) distillery
lies in Brechin, on the eastern coast of Scotland. It was
built in 1820 as 'Townhead' by David, John & Alexander
Guthrie. However, strictly speaking it was still sort of an
illegal distillery - if I understand various history books
correctly, legal whisky production didn't start until 1823
when the Excise Act was passed.
1823 was also the year that Townhead was renamed to
Brechin - before the name changed to North Port in 1839.
In 1825 the enterprise that ownerd North Port became a
limited company by the name of Guthrie, Martin & Co.
Like most other distillery Brechin distillery fell silent during World War I. In 1922 North Port was taken over by the Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL) and W. H. Holt & Co, after which it was acquired by Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. (SMD) and operated under licence by Mitchell Brothers of Glasgow. North Port distillery fell silent again in 1928, went in production again in 1937 and then stopped producing malt whisky once again during World War II.
I wrote earlier that the name of the distillery was changed from 'Brechin' to
North Port in 1823, but according to some sources this didn't actually happen
until over a century later; they claim the name of the distillery was changed
in 1939. During the second world war the distillery was used to house part
of the Polish infantry. North Port / Brechin resumed production again after the
second world war (in 1948), but it was closed once again in 1983 - and as it
turned out permanently this time...
Well, actually the North Port / Brechin distillery was mothballed in 1983.
That means that theoretically it could have resumed production in the first
few years after the closure. However, it was slowly dismantled instead.
As the crisis that hit the whisky world continued, the owners seemed to gradually give up hope
on the revival of some of the distilleries. They started selling off parts of the equipment of some
distilleries in the 1980's and not long afterwards the real estate followed. The site where North
Port / Brechin stood was sold for property development in 1990 and it is now the location of a
North Port / Brechin wasn't the only distillery in the area that was closed after the 1980's.
Hillside / Glenesk, Lochside and Glenury Royal a few miles to the North suffered similar fates. The
Glencadam distillery was mothballed too, but it was reopened again a few years later. The only
distillery in the area that remained operational throughout was the Old Fettercairn distillery.
1) North Port / Brechin could very well be the Scotch whisky distillery that created the most confusion about its name. Very few sources seem to agree exactly WHEN the name was changed exactly - and why...
3) Whisky production at the North Port distillery was ceased during World War II.
In those years the distillery buildings were used to house Polish soldiers.
North Port 25yo 1981/2006 (56,1%, The Whisky Fair, Sherry butt, 120 Bottles)
Nose: Rich and polished. Sherry, fruits and spices. Strawberry. Highly enjoyable - best North Port ever?
Taste: Fruity and very hot at cask strength. A splash of water works beautifully here. Hint of perfume.
Score: 89 points - my sixth North Port ever, and the best (although a 25yo Cadenhead's came close).
Brechin 26yo 1976/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, cask 3351, 282 bottles, 6 months sherry finish)
Nose: Polished, flat & sweet. Paint thinner. Then more 'veggy' and fruity elements emerge. Melon. Oatmeal?
Taste: Hot and flat. Dry, boring centre. Tannins in the numbing finish. What a bummer...
Score: 70 points - even with a sherry finish, this whisky didn't make a very strong impression.
North Port 25yo 1977/2002 (56%, Cadenhead's, June 2002, Bourbon Hogshead, 276 Bottles)
Nose: Rich. Polished. Gooseberry. Spicy. Sweaty. Organics. Fabulous! Best North Port by far.
Taste: Sweet, Chewy. Big and bold. Very, very impressive for a bourbon matured malt.
Score: 88 points - overwhelming proof that I shouldn't 'write off' a distillery too soon.
This was the only expression of the Brechin whisky ever to score above average, mind you...
North Port-Brechin 20yo 1979/1999 (61%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Fruity start, quickly followed by herball off-notes. This falls apart very quickly at cask strength.
Opens up a little bit with a few drops of water, but not much. Clay? Cardboard? Like a young spirit.
Taste: Surprisingly watery start at more than 60%. Sweet, hot centre. Fairly long burn. Herbal again?
Just like the nose, it falls apart completely on the palate - especially with some water. Feels young.
Score: 68 points - it's amazing how immature the spirit still feels at this strength. Dead cask?
That being said, it benefits from some breathing; I had it in the lower 60's for the first ten minutes.
North Port-Brechin 1981/1998 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
Nose: Restrained. Light citrus and vanilla? It's hard to pick out any distinguishing characteristics.
Taste: Smooth. Warm. A little flat. Raw beans? Dry in the finish. Very drinkable but below par for a malt.
Score: 62 points - the least impressive expression I've tried so far...
North Port 1974/1993 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
Nose: Clean. Grainy. Not very expressive. Closed. Fishy? Those were all my notes. I need bigger glasses.
Taste: Sweetish and watery. Malty perhaps? Once again there wasn't much more to write down.
Score: 70 points - certainly not a bad whisky, but it simply lacks character and personality.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of North Port 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 North Port page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of North Port / Brechin 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