The Edradour distillery is located on the edge of the Southern Highlands,
better known as the Midlands. Bottlings have been released onder the
name Edradour, but in the past some batches were bottled as 'Glenforres'.
A more heavily peated 'Balechin' variety has become available as well.
The name Edradour is first mentioned in 1837, but a 'farm' distillery under
the name Glenforres was founded in or around 1825. At one time many
of these small distillery were operational in Perthshire, but Edradour is the
only one to survive to this day. Until Kilchoman on Islay became operational
in 2005, Edradour could claim to be Scotland's smallest distillery with an
annual production capacity of a mere 90,000 litres (just like Kilchoman).
Lately, more small distilleries like Daftmill and Loch Ewe were opened.
The Edradour distillery is situated near Pitlochry - one of Scotand’s
most charming towns. You can get there by car, but if you happen to
visit the area during a spell of nice weather, you might as well take an
invigorating walk through the fields to work up an appetite.
Some of the large distilleries in Scotland are more like factories.
The small and traditional Edradour distillery offers a more educational
experience, providing insight in the way whisky was made in the past,
Despite being located slightly off the beaten path in the Milands, Edradour attracts +/- 100,000 visitors a year.
1) The cast iron mash tun at Edradour is an antique - it was made
over a century ago in 1910.
2) The Edradour distillery annually attracts almost 100,000 visitors.
However, around 2010 they only produced 90,000 litres of malt
whisky each year. That roughly means that for every litre of whisky
that is sold, one person visited Edradour.
3) Edradour distillery is located near the charming little town of
Pitlochry in the Midlands. If you're visiting the area and staying
over in the town, I can heartily recommend walking to and from
the distillery along the winding roads through the hills.
5) The malted barley that is used for the Ballechin malt whisky
has a phenol content of 50 PPM.
4) Being (one of) the smallest distilleries in Scotland, bottlings
of Edradour showed strong batch variation during the 1990's.
After Andrew Symington took over, many of the new bottlings
were special finishes with not a lot of 'distillery character' left.
Between you and me; that character was more like a 'fault' and
won't really be missed.
6) By 2016 the production capacity at Edradour had been increased to 130,000 litres.
Out of their annual production, almost a quarter (26,000 litres) consists of the Ballechin peated whisky.
2002 - Andrew Symington (the man behind the Signatory
Vintage independent bottler) buys the Edradour distillery
from Pernod Ricard and puts Ian Henderson (the old distillery
manager of Laphroaig) in charge.
2006 - The first edition of the Ballechin is released and James McGowan takes over as distillery manager.
2010 - By the time that the 5th release of Ballechin is released, it has grown into a true rival for Islay malts.
Unfortunately, at the same time some Edradour bottlings strayed from the trail towards perfection.
2013 - A Sauternes Finish version of Ballechin is released.
2003 - They start experimenting with the distillation of a heavily peated (50 ppm) spirit at Edradour distillery.
This spirit will later be marketed under the 'Ballechin' name.
2016 - The production capacity of Edradour is increased to 130,000 litres per year. Combined with the fact that
a number of new ‘craft’ distilleries were founded in recent years, this means that Edradour can no longer lay claim
to the title of Scotland’s smallest distillery
(Bottlings under the name "Edradour" are listed first, releases of the peatier "Ballechin" whisky are listed below.)
Edradour NAS 'Port Cask Matured' 5th Release (46%, OB, C#382, 1133 Bts., Bottled 2/2010)
Nose: Oy... The sweet & sour combination I often find in finished whiskies. Expressive. Milk powder.
Very fruity, but it feels a tad artificial. After a few very strong years, the old face of Edradour turns up again.
Taste: Sweet start - but it's sharp and alcoholic. No balance between the various elements. A little watery.
Score: 72 points - it almost seems like Andrew S. may have become a little overconfident. Too young a cask?
Edradour 7yo 2003/2010 (56.1%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Bourbon C#120, 233 Bts.)
Nose: Mellow. Hyacinth. Spring blossoms. Not too expressive - but not too offensive either.
With a splash of water some more flowery aroma's emerged, together with some very faint toilet freshener.
Taste: This whisky starts a little floral on the palate, which fits the nose nicely. Smooth but fairly flat.
Score: 76 points - it scores one point above average because the high proof gives it some "oomph".
Otherwise, it's not very memorable. Odd; LMdW seems usually very adept at picking the top casks.
Edradour 10yo 1997/2008 (56.9%, OB, Moscatel Cask Finish, 468 Bts.)
Nose: Smooth and round. Water melon and other light fruits. Peaches. Marzipan. Light and refreshing.
Quite rich and very pleasant. Obviously a 'finished' whisky, but it works quite well. Nicely integrated.
Taste: Smooth, fruity start. A solid, sweet centre. Plenty of tannins in the (slightly gritty) finish. Some smoke?
Only in the end it shows that it lacks some substance. Not as well integrated as the nose; a tad rough.
Score: 83 points - the nose is very interesting, but the palate doesn't warrant a score in the upper 80's.
Edradour 10yo 1997/2008 (57.1%, OB, Sassicaia Cask Finish, 464 Bts.)
Nose: Starts with an explosion of very concentrated fruits. Softens up after breathing, but remains expressive.
Fresh and fruity; a more 'sunny' profile than that of the Moscatel Cask Finish. A subtle, enjoyable sweetness.
After a minute some subtle spices emerge. A nicely balanced profile; identifiable as a finish, but it works well.
Taste: Sweet & fruity in the start, more serious and solid in the centre. Fruits, wood & some tannins in the finish.
Score: 84 points - this is my favourite 'finish' in the 2008 range of Edradour; a job very well done.
Edradour 1995/2008 (57%, OB, Cask #458, 683 Bts.)
Nose: Pleasant but not terribly expressive. There is fun to be had, but it stays very subtle. Fairly sweet.
After a few minutes of breathing there's a trace of perfume. Slowly opens up a little bit with some oxygen.
Taste: Smooth start; surprisingly gentle at 57%. Much more character than the nose would suggest.
Score: 79 points - I guess the perfumy trait is masked by the fruity finishes in many other expressions.
Edradour 23yo 1983/2006 Port Finish (52,1%, Signatory Vintage, C#06/0554, 743 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet & rich in the nose with a hint of organics in the background. Rotting milk powder.
There's something chemical about it. Maybe this is a little too 'doctored' for some...
Taste: Overly sweet on the palate - clearly a finished whisky. Some smoke as well.
Score: 83 points - a little weird, but the wood clearly present in the finish.
Edradour 11yo 1994/2005 (59.6%, OB, SfTC, Madeira finish, cask #04/316/4, 488 bottles)
Nose: Light and a tad dusty. A little sharp and not too expressive. The faintest organics. Unevolved.
Taste: Solid, sweet and fruity start. Big centre. Dry, cool and a tad metallic in the finish. Some nice tannins.
Score: 74 points - not really my cup of tea, overall. The finish has a 'bourbony flatness' I'm not crazy about.
Edradour 11yo 1994/2005 (57.1%, OB, Straight from The Cask, Gaja Barolo finish)
Nose: Fruit sweets. Some spices and organics in the background. Quickly growing complexity.
Oh yeah, this is turning into a sherry monster! The spices and organics grow more powerful over time.
Taste: Smooth start. Smoky and fruity in the centre, then the tannins emerge. Lovely mouth feel.
Score: 88 points - it has a few odd sides to it (like a taste of Nivea salve or baby oil) but I like it a lot.
Edradour 21yo 1983/2004 Port Finish (53.6%, OB, cask #03/1041, 776 bottles)
Nose: Quite mellow and malty at first, but quickly some organics emerge. It grows sweeter and spicier.
The organics open up nicely. Oriental dishes. After tasting it I got some 'Blue Curacao' in the nose as well.
Taste: Oy! Chemical sweetness, like Blue Curacao liqueur. Smurf whisky? Woodier and winier in the finish.
Score: 79 points - extremely interesting, but I wouldn't actively recommend it to anyone.
Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (56.8%, OB, cask #04/11/2, 445 bottles)
Nose: Smooth and slightly oily at first, but growing more powerful quickly. Fruits.
Maybe a hint of peat? Rubber (bicycle tires). Then more spices. Cinnamon again.
Taste: Once again a bit of an odd taste. A chemical fruitiness like the last one. Very, very woody in the finish.
Extremely dry. Hints of smoke and perfume. Candy on the palate, but not extremely sweet.
Score: 82 points - this is an experience... but it's probably not to everybody's liking.
Edradour 10yo 1994/2004 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered Collection, D. 9/8/'94, B. 20/10/'04, C#349, 783 Bts.)
Nose: Fruity and rough with a hint of smoke in the background. Still some of the 'faulty' traits of Edradour.
Initially I was thinking of a score in the lower 60's, but after half an hour it becomes notably more complex.
Taste: A simple fruitiness with plenty of rough edges. This resembles the profile of some recent official bottlings.
Score: 69 points - certainly not boring, but it's not quite refined enough for a score in the 70's.
Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Burgundy Finish (57.4%, OB, cask #04/13/3, 458 bottles)
Nose: Wowie! Big and fruity. Mint. Spices and some very mild organics. Cinnamon.
It's quite spectacular, although I can't really identify a lot of the specific aroma's.
Taste: Eugh... Very herbal start. it's not exactly perfumy, but it comes close.
Cinnamon. An aspirin bitterness in the finish. Oh, how it falls from grace. Too bad...
Score: 82 points - this is a malt you have to work at. Not MOTR, that much is certain...
Edradour 30yo 1973/2003 (53.4%, OB, Butt #97)
Nose: Very well balanced with plumes and organics. Hints of 'Maggi'. A very pleasant surprise.
Taste: was very satisfying as well; pretty much everything there. This is good stuff.
Score: 88 points - without a doubt the best Edradour I've tried so far...
Edradour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, Pernod Ricard)
Nose: Unbalanced start with sour vomit notes. Soapy. Sherried. Farmy, organic notes. Woody. Sweet.
Dusty. Interesting development; very sour after 10 minutes. Later on more smoke emerges - and more soap.
Meanwhile the sherry notes grow stronger. Lemon sweets after 20 minutes. Nuttier with 5 drops of water.
Taste: Ough! Very strange at the start. Soap. Molasses & Mint. Eucalyptus? Malty. Slightly oily. Old vomit.
Rotting wood. A very unpleasant chemical undercurrent. Bitter. With time, it grows even worse. Stomach acid.
Score: 42 points - the taste of this whisky is really horrific! Batch variation or a bad cork?
Edradour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998, Campbell, 70cl)
Nose: Soft and malty. Nothing offensive in the nose, but nothing to fall in love with either.
Taste: Malty and smooth. It reminded me a bit of the Dufftown 10yo OB - but less complex.
Score: 70 points - just a few points below average. Perfectly drinkable but no high flyer.
Apart from the main 'brand' Edradour, the distillery also produces the peatier Ballechin whisky;
Ballechin NAS '5th Release' Marsala Cask Matured' (46%, OB, Peated, Bottled 2010)
Nose: Light, sweet, spicy peat. Refreshing! Quite sweet as well. A whiff of warm milk. Nice development.
More meaty notes emerge after five minutes. It grows more austere over time with more organics.
Taste: Sweet and peaty start, followed by a smokier centre. It reminded me of a young Laphroaig.
The accent moves further towards smoke and tar later on. The sweetness lingers in the finish for a long time.
Score: 85 points - this is by far my favourite release so far; each one is better than the last!
Ballechin NAS '4th Release' Oloroso Sherry Casks Matured (46%, OB, Bottled 2009, 6000 Bts.)
Nose: Solid and malty with diesel and peat emerging after a few seconds. Fruity undercurrent.
Industrial oil; like the repair area of a garage. Lots of rough edges, but they add to the charm.
Taste: Dry, leathery start. Black fruits. Smoke. Explosion of freshness in the centre, dry again in the finish.
Score: 82 points - good stuff; this fourth batch is the second batch I would actually recommend myself.
Ballechin NAS '3rd Release' (46%, OB, Port Cask matured, Bottled 2008, 6000 Bts.)
Nose: Meaty start. Hint of oil? It starts off quite promising, but there's not much development over time.
Well, there's a very faint trace of fruits as well after a few minutes. Rough fruitiness, like fresh fruit spirit.
Taste: More smoky than peaty at first. Very dry centre, but oddly enough it softens out in the finish.
Score: 80 points - as far as I'm concerned this works a little better than last year's Madeira cask finish.
Ballechin NAS '2nd Release' (46%, OB, Madeira Cask matured, Bottled 2007)
Nose: Phew… Sourish and oily - rotting milk powder? Something herbal.
Smells immature - but interesting and quite unique. nice effort; falls just short of recommendable
Taste: Gentle peaty start, followed by a smoky centre and loads of liquorice on the palate. Smoky finish.
Not from Islay? Might have made it to the 80's on the palate alone. Funny to see the batches improve.
Score: 79 points - the nose is just a little too weird for me to actively recommend this one.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Edradour malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Edradour I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Edradour.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
Because Edradour is such a small distillery and part of the equipment is so quaint, they have been
struggling to achieve some consistency between batches before 2003, but with limited success.
Edradour had been in the hands of American owners for almost a century when it was obtained by
Campbell Distillers (a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard) in 1982. A visitor centre was added to the distillery;
probably one of the first examples of what is now a pretty common feature in Scotland. Edradour has
the required minimum of two stills and uses mostly traditional equipment like worm tubs to cool the
spirit. The wort is cooled by the last 'Morton's refrigerator' operating in the Scotch whisky industry.
Before Andrew and Iain took control of Edradour, the distillery had built an unenviable reputation
for batch variation - bottles that were released in the 1990's (depicted at the right) ranged from
average quality to frankly rather poor. Andrew's decision to focus on single cask bottlings and a
wide range of special finishes (Sauternes, Burgundy, etc.) was brilliant; he turned Edradour's
biggest weakness into a strength. Edradour now holds Scotland's broadest cask portfolio.
In the summer of 2003 some of the malt maniacs had the pleasure of visiting the distillery, shortly
after Andrew Symington (of Signatory Vintage fame) had purchased Edradour convinced the
former manager at Laphroaig distillery Iain Henderson to sign on as Operation Director. It was
a beautiful day in Perthshire; Iain and the tour guide took their time to answer even the weirdest
questions. Because Edradour is such a small and traditional distillery we had the opportunity to
investigate every little aspect of the complete malt whisky distillation process.
Soon after Andrew Symington and Iain Henderson took over at Edradour, they started
distillation of a peated malt under the name 'Ballechin'. Peated malts went out of fashion
in the 1980s on the Scottish mainland, but they made a comeback in the 2000s...
With reported phenol levels of somewhere around 50PPM Ballechin is one of the most
heavily peated malts produced outside the island of Islay. The thirst for peated malts has
grown so much that they can't make enough on Islay anymore.
Together with the wide range of special finishes in obscure casks, Edradour now
offers one of the most varied ‘finished’ portfolio's in the whisky industry of Scotland.
However, the 'brand consistency' of the small distillery is an altogether different issue.
These days Edradour doesn't seem to have its own 'house style' anymore...
The availability of at least some expressions of Edradour is a 'litmus test' for liquorists.
If they don't have a handful of different bottlings available it might be time to start looking
around for another whisky supplier. These days, these small brands are more interesting
to watch than many of the big names that offer little variety in their line-up. .
As I mentioned before, it remains to be seen if Edradour can actually hang on to its
'Scotland's Smallest Distillery' claim. It just depends on how 'smallest' is defined.
The square footage of the distillery buildings? Surface of the distillery grounds? Or maybe its annual output?
I don't have all the latest figures, but I imagine Daftmill or Kilchoman could make claims of their own in this area
nowadays, and the production capacity of some of the most recent distillery additions is quite limited too.