Glen Craig Scotch whisky

Glen Craig distillery

Glencraig Scotch Whisky

Glencraig  (Also: Glen Craig, pronounced: glen-kreegk)
Speyside (Findhorn)
5737'19.7256 N, 331'3.6264 W
Benromach, Dallas Dhu, Glen Moray, Miltonduff
1956
Closed - the Lomond stills were demolished in 1981
Local springs
Lomond stills
None
Pernod Ricard > Allied (Domecq) (since 2005)
Alves, Near Forres, Morayshire
, IV36 0QX, Scotland
-
No
No
No
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

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Glengraig location

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NOT Glen Craig distillery, Scotland

The building depicted at the right isn't the Glencraig distillery, because
that never actually existed - at least not as a separate set of buildings.
Glencraig was the name of the whisky that was distilled in two special
'Lomond Stills' at the Glenburgie distillery between 1956 and 1981.

Chapter 4 of the Beginner's Guide provides some backgrounds on the
difference between the traditional 'swan neck' stills and 'Lomond' stills.
The person who played an important role in the introduction of this
important innovation - or at least change - in the Scottish malt whisky
industry was Margaret Nicol. In 1936 she was the first female distillery
manager in Scotland. Margaret got the job when Hiram Walker and
George Ballantine & Son took over the Glenburgie distillery.

Glen Craig distillery profileInteractive whisky distillery mapScotland - whisky distillery informationScotch whisky bottlersScotch malt whisky brandsNew distillery projects

Glencraig whisky

Glencraig 1975 malt whisky by Gordon and MacPhail

Margaret was connected to a historic development in the whisky industry; the introduction of a new kind of still. The last innovation in this area (the Coffey still) was one century old when Alistair Cunningham and Arthur Warren of Hiram Walker came up with the plan for the Lomond still in 1955. This type of still had a regular 'pot' at the bottom of the still, but the traditional swan neck had been modified. Within the straigh pipe there were three adjustable plates, called 'rectifier plates' which could be cooled separately. By modifying the position and temperature of the plates the reflux of the 'boiling' whisky could be controlled. 

The angle of the 'lyne arm' at the top of the still could be modified as well to influence the character of the whisky further. That was exactly what Hiram Walker was trying to accomplish in order to better meet the demands of the blenders. The makers of (among other brands) Ballantine's wanted to be able to use a wider spectrum of malt whiskies without having to build more malt whisky distilleries. The very first Lomond still was installed in 1956 in Hiram Walker's Dumbarton distillery (located right on the border between Highlands & Lowlands).

At one time Dumbarton was Scotland's largest grain whisky distillery; it draws its water from the nearby Loch Lomond - the lake, not to be confused with the Loch Lomond distillery. Within the Dumbarton complex the Inverleven malt whisky distillery operated between 1938 and 1991. That first Lomond still was soon replaced by another still that was twice as large. During the production process the Lomond still was used as the spirit still next to the regular Inverleven wash still. This spirit still was mothballed in 1985.

Lomond-stills-02

In 1958 two Lomond Stills were installed within the
Glenburgie distillery. In this case both the wash
still and the spirit still were of the 'Lomond' type.
I guess this makes the whisky that was produced
there a real 100% Lomond whisky, as opposed
to the 50% Lomond whisky that was made at
the Inverleven / Dumbarton distillery.
 
As mentioned before, the Lomond malt whisky
that was produced at Glenburgie was called
Glencraig (sometimes Glen Craig), after production
director Willie Craig. The Lomond stills were
replaced with regular pot stills in 1981.

Why didn't the Lomond Stills become a success?
Probably the most important reason was the fact
that the maintenance and cleaning of Lomond
stills was very labour intensive. Whenever the
still had been in operation for a few hours a thick
layer of residue emerged on the rectifier plates;
this was very difficult to remove.
 
More importantly, as it turned out there simply
was more demand from blenders for Glenburgie
malt whisky than for the 'Glencraig' Lomond variety.
The same was true for the Mosstowie Lomond
whisky that was made at Miltonduff distillery.

The whole 'raison d'etre' for building those darned
Lomond stills in the first place was to better suit
the needs of blenders. However, apparently the
blenders were not that interested. That meant
that the space and capital that were required to
keep a separate production line going could be
put to better use (i.e. more profitable use) by
installing regular equipment instead. 

What's more, the theoretical flexibility provided by the rectifier plates proved to be mostly theoretical indeed.
One would imagine that the plates would enable the stillmen to manipulate the character of the Lomond whisky, but it seems to me that the opposite was actually achieved. Maybe it's my imagination, but I found oily notes in many of the 'Lomond' type malt whiskies from different distilleries.

These days, the 'Lomond' era is definitely over - although an 'amputated' Lomond still (without rectifier plates) is still used on Orkney at the Scapa distillery and Mark Reynier has brought Dumbarton's old Lomond stills to Islay in order to use them for his new Port Charlotte distillery. Well, there is ONE distillery that still keeps the Lomond still legacy alive, and that is - fittingly - Loch Lomond distillery itself. Apart from two regular pot stills they have no less than four other stills in operation with so-called 'rectifying heads'. By combining the whiskies that are produced by these six stills in different ways, Loch Lomond is able to produce eight different whiskies they say - all of them fairly mediocre if you ask me. When the Scotch Whisky Association wanted to introduce a bunch of new whisky categories around the year 2007 Loch Lomond asked for a special category for its whisky - and if ANY 'malt' whisky distillery had solid grounds for such a request it's Loch Lomond. However, the request was denied. Interestingly enough, Loch Lomond is not a member of the SWA - which in reality is mostly a lobby organisation for the big corporations anyway.

Glenburgie is still active, but the Lomond stills for the Glencraig malt whisky were removed in 1981.
That means that no new Glencraig malt whisky can ever be produced. Glencraig has always been pretty rare to begin with, and will become even rarer in the future. This may make bottlings interesting for collectors, but based on my experiences so far it's not a whisky worth hunting down if you're primarily interested in good time dramming.
Glenburgie is now owned by Pernod Ricard who successfully acquired Allied Domecq in 2005.

Trivia about Glencraig

1) The Glencraig malt whisky that was produced in the Lomond stills at Glenburgie was named after Willie Craig, a former production director at parent company Hiram Walker. This makes Glencraig possibly the only distillery named after an actual person.

2) Because the Glencraig spirit from the Lomond stills had to be kept apart from the Glenburgie spirit, the Glencraig distillery had two separate spirit safes and spirit receiving vessels. This was a fairly unusual set-up, making Glenburgie one of the few small malt whisky distilleries in Scotland with double equipment.

3) In 1936 Margaret Nicol was the first female distillery manager in Scotland.

4) Glenburgie distillery (and therefore Glencraig) is located not far from Forres is the village of Alves.
The town is famous as the location of Knock Hill where Macbeth is said to have met 'the weird sisters'.

5) Recent bottlings of Glencraig are so rare that I can actually list most of them on this page.
At the beginning of 2009 we had a little over a dozen different bottlings on the Malt Maniacs Monitor - mostly from Cadenhead's, Duncan Taylor and in Gordon & macPhail's 'Connoisseurs Choice' series;

Glencraig 19yo 1981/2001 (59.5%, Cadenhead's Authentic, Sherry, 276 Bts.)
Glencraig 20yo 1981/2001 (58.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic, 270 Bts.)
Glencraig 21yo 1981/2002 (56.2%, Cadenhead's Authentic, 240 Bts.)
Glencraig 22yo 1981/2003 (57.5%, Cadenhead's Authentic, 216 Bts.)
Glencraig 30yo 1974/2004 (40.1%, DT RotR, C#2928, 229 Bts.)
Glencraig 32yo 1974/2006 (40.3%, DT RotR, C#2927, 246 Bts.)
Glencraig 34yo 1974/2008 (40.8%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, C#2929)
Glencraig 1975/2000 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
Glencraig 1970/1988 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
Glencraig 16yo 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice old brown label, +/- 1984)
Glencraig 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
Glencraig 30yo 1976/2007 (49.6%, Signatory Oval Decanters, C#425)
Glen Craig 30yo 1974/2004 (45%, SMWS, 104.10, 107 Bts.)
Glencraig 30yo 1974/2005 (51,1%, SMWS, 104.6, 199 Bts.)
 

Glencraig single malt whisky

Glencraig 30yo 1974/2004 (40.2%, Rarest of the Rare, Cask #2928, 229 Bottles)
Nose: Molasses. A chemical sweetness. Lemon scented detergent. Changes quickly. Hints of chloride and pine.
Taste: Chartreuse in the start; 2nd time I found that marker. Quite flat and gritty apart from that, I would say.
Score: 79 points - although a hint of 'After Eight' chocolate provoked a warm glow of melancholy in my stomach.

Glencraig 22yo 1981/2003 (57.5%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 216 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet. Furniture polish. Organics. Spicy. Sweaty. Whiffs of fudge? Good stuff! A nasal adventure.
Taste: Hmmm... No sweetness whatsoever. Grains. Uneven mouth feel. Fragmented. Very bitter in the finish.
Score: 79 points - but that's mostly thanks to the nose; the palate alone was worth a score in the 60's.

Glencraig 19yo 1981/2001 (59,5%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, 276 Bottles)
Nose: Polished. Oak? 'Boerenjongens' (raisins in brandy). Subtle on the surface. Chloride. Nougat.
Chestnut honey. By far the best Glencraig I've tried so far - perhaps because it matured in a sherry cask?
Taste: Sweet & solid. What a great mouth feel at cask strength... Just a tad gritty in the finish - no real 'flaw'.
Score: 84 points - if I remember correctly Serge told me this is the only sherried Glencraig ever released. Great!

Glencraig 16yo 1970 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice Old brown label, +/- 1986, Australia)
Nose: Surprisingly fresh with a hint of pine. Alcoholic, but in a pleasant way. Not a lot of 'OBE' apparently.
Sweetens out a little after five minutes, and eventually it grows a little more metallic too. Growing complexity.
Farmy? I detected some very subtle fruity notes as well during a second try - as well as a whiff of dust.
Taste: A classic, malty profile that powers up in the centre. More substance than many CC's from the 1990's.
A touch of smoke. Some sapy green wood in the finish. Some pine. I found some menthol as well.
The mouth feel is pretty rough. Good but not spectacular; I'd say this comes from a bourbon cask.
After circa twenty minutes I finally found a touch of 'old bottle effect' on the palate. That lifts it into the 80's.
Score: 80 points - appropriately enough, this sample was sent to me by Craig Daniels in Australia.
Thanks a lot for this Glencraig, 'Glen' Craig ;-)

Glencraig 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old Map, 5cl, Bottled +/- 1985)
Nose: Lemon in the nose, not much else I could pick up. (I sampled this one at the beach on Islay)
Taste: Bitter and flat on the palate. Really not many things that stand out about this Glencraig, I'd say.
Score: 50 points - I actually had a very tough time rating this (but couldn't afford not to because it's ultra-rare).
 

And there's more to tell about Glencraig...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glencraig 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 Glencraig page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about a little over a dozen of Glencraig 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.)
 

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