One of the colourful people in the whisky world of the second half of the 19th
century was John Duff - former manager at Glendronach and founder of the
Longmorn distillery. After running a hotel for a few years, he and a few business
partners started the company John Duff & Co. in 1876. In the very same year the
Glenlossie distillery was launched .
Glenlossie is a remarkable distillery for many reasons, but the malt whisky that it
produces is fairly obscure. One thing that sets Glenlossie apart from most other
Scotch whisky distilleries is the fact that the premises actually house two separate
distilleries; in 1971 the Mannochmore distillery was constructed next to Glenlossie.
But I'm getting ahead of myself - there's more history to convey...
John Duff had been an innkeeper at Lhanbryde and had a keen business sense;
as partners in his enterprise he chose the local public prosecutor and the burgh
surveyor. However, in 1888 (after a decade of running Glenlossie) he decided to
emigrate to South Africa with his wife and three daughters.
John had planned to build a new distillery in Transvaal and invested
large sums of money in what would likely have been Africa's first malt
whisky distillery. Unfortunately, president Paul Kruger obstructed John
Duff's plans; he loathed anything British - including Scotch whisky.
After his African dream had been shattered John Duff decided to try his luck in North America - but
he didn't fare much better there. In the USA many distillers were active (some of them illegal) and
the anti-colonial sentiments against the British were still alive and well in some circles. In 1892 John
decided to return to Scotland with his family. Back 'home' he returned to the whisky world as a
distillery manager at the 'Bon Accord' distillery in Aberdeen (renamed later to 'North of Scotland').
This kept John off the streets for a few years, but his entrepreneurial
spirit grew restless again at the end of the 19th century when the
whisky industry was booming, so he started another whisky distillery.
In 1894 John Duff joined the Longmorn Distillery Company.
He partnered up with George Thomson and Charles Shirres to build the Longmorn
distillery. After a fairly modest investment of 20,000 pounds the 4 stills were heated
up for the first time in December 1894. The whisky produced there quickly became
popular with blenders, so it wasn't long before John Duff became overly confident
and bought out his two partners so he could become the sole owner of Longmorn.
What's more, he decided to invest 16,000
pounds in building yet another distillery;
Benriach - also known as Longmorn #2.
Unfortunately, the whisky bubble imploded shortly afterwards.
Within a year after his bold investments John Duff went bankrupt.
When the legal proceedings were wrapped up in 1909 the Longmorn
distillery had already been taken over by some of his customers,
including Arthur Sanderson and Thomas Dewar. While Longmorn
and Benriach went through some difficult times around the year
1900, Glenlossie did just fine.
In 1919 Glenlossie was taken over by DCL (Distillers Company Ltd.).
After a fairly large fire in 1929 (this was always a risk with distilleries)
Glenlossie was transferred to SMD (Scottish Malt Distillers) in 1930.
In 1962 the number of stills was expanded from four to six and in
1971 the Mannochmore distillery was constructed right behind
Glenlossie. This counts as a separate distillery, but it's hard to see
from the road - its buildings are not identified as part of the
The Glenlossie distillery itself may not seem like a very large plant,
but the Glenlossie Bonds are fairly massive. Some 200,000 casks
are stored there - originating from many different Diageo distilleries.
After the Mannochmore buildings were added to the site, the workforce used to switch between Glenlossie and
Mannochmore, each operating only six months in a a year. Later, when demand for malt whisky increased,
both distilleries operated full time.
Glenlossie may be relatively obscure as a single malt, but it's considered to be a top class malt whisky by blenders.
That's why the Glenlossie malt whisky used to be an important part of the Haig blends - among other things.
The Glenlossie distillery is named after the area within the
Speyside region where it is located; the ‘Lossie’ area around
the Lossie river and the town of Elgin near the Moray Firth.
(Fun fact: nearby MacBeth defeated Duncan I in 1040.)
The whisky from Glenlossie is mostly destined for blends and it’s not really marketed as a single malt. So, not
many customers are that interested in a distillery tour and there’s little point for the producers in organising one.
1) There is a ‘Glenlossie’ distillery in Australia as well.
8) The Glenlossie whisky has not recently been bottled as an official bottling of single malt - unless you count
the 10 years old 'Flora & Fauna' bottling (see above) which was first released in 1990.
5) The Boby Mill that was used at the Glenlossie distillery came from Teanninich distillery.
2) The shape of the stills at Glenlossie is quite
unusual. The ‘bellies’ change into the ‘necks’ very
gradually and the lyne arms are almost horizontal.
6) Glenlossie distillery uses a stainless steel full lauter mash tun with a capacity of more than 8 tonnes.
3) The onion shaped stills at Glenlossie have retained
their shape and size since 1876. The spirit stills use a
'purifier' between the lyne arm and the condensers.
4) The purifier acts as a mini-condenser, which returns
a proportion of the alcohol vapours back to the pot to
be re-distilled. The action of 'purifiers' increases the
amount of reflux within the stills, which should result in
a lighter, more delicate whisky. UDV's only other malt
whisky distillery which uses purifiers is Strathmill in the
town of Keith.
7) Glenlossie distillery made full use of the nearby Elgin-Perth railway line and even had its own platform.
2007 - For many years the same production crew switched back and forth between
the Glenlossie distillery and the Mannochmore distillery, operating each distillery for
circa six months and laying down stocks before relocating to the other. From 2007
onwards both malt whisky distilleries worked full time again.
2011 - The owners of Glenlossie submit plans for a 6,000,000 GBP bio-energy plant
to process the draff. This would make production notably ‘greener’.
2013 - In 2007 production at Glenlossie and Mannochmore was greatly increased by
switching from partial to ‘full’ production. In this case full production meant a work
schedule of 5 days per week. In 2013 the capacity of the distilleries was increased
further by switching to a new schedule that involved 7 working days in a week,
In the new situation Glenlossie could produce 3 million litres of alcohol per year.
2015 - While production capacity is increasing throughout the Scotch whisky industry,
Diageo makes a counter-intuitive decision by reducing production at Glenlossie. Two
years after switching to a 7 day work week the distillery goes back to a 5 day work week.
As a result, the production capacity is brought back to 2 million litres of alcohol per
year - perhaps temporarily.
2010 - A single cask bottling of Glenlossie 1999 is released in the prestigious
‘Manager’s Choice range. It was matured in first fill bourbon casks..
2017 - The SMWS releases the Glenlossie 24yo 1992 ’Living the High Life’ (46.58) at 53.2% ABV.
Glenlossie 1984/2010 (60%, Scotch Single Malt Circle Maggie Miller, Sherry C#2534, 563 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet, but beautifully balanced. Whiff of tea. Sweaty. Some smoke as well, followed by more organics.
With a few drops of water it initially numbs the nose. Some faint sulphury notes. Black cherries. Bakery aroma's.
Taste: Sweetish and woody start; a real sipping whisky. A flash of menthol or pine? Touch of smoke in the finish.
Score: 90 points - this is a whisky that starts off strong but that still benefits from lots and lots of time.
Glenlossie 1975/2010 (49.8%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, C#5950)
Nose: Polished with a malty base. Tropical fruits emerge after a few seconds, then more sherried notes.
Taste: Quite powerful with some smoke in the background. Sweet and sherried after some breathing.
Score: 85 points - on the palate it's the sort of profile that I like, but this whisky has some rough edges.
Glenlossie 15yo 1993/2008 (52.6%, Exclusive Malts for GEO), cask#184, 320 Bts.)
Nose: Grainy with a whiff of vinegar. Faint lemon too? Odd and dusty. Sweetens out after fifteen seconds.
The bouquet drops off quickly after that. No, wait, now it makes a comeback again. A little perfumy?
Not a real high flyer, but it's certainly not boring - so my score for this whisky reaches the 80's eventually.
Taste: Ambivalent start, followed by a powerful centre. Dry, woody finish with quite some 'bad' tannins.
Coffee & smoke. Bitter finish. Sweetens out after some breathing, lifting it into the 80's (but barely…)
Score: 81 points - I usually love tannins in the finish, but these are somehow not really the right kind...
Glenlossie 1989/2007 (46%, Jean Boyer 'Best Casks', Re-coopered Hogs, Single cask)
Nose: Almost nothing first. Light fruit candy sweetness. Melon later on. A tad too subtle for my tastes.
Taste: Watery, smooth start. I gave it some time, but still nothing much happened. No 'flaws' either, mind you.
Score: 71 points - I'm afraid that's not terribly impressive for a whisky that's almost twenty years old...
Glenlossie 40yo 1966/2006 (50%, Adelphi, C#3779, 213 Bts.)
Nose: Sharpish and chemical in the nose at first with some interesting organics in the background.
Certainly better than average on the palate, but it just doesn't leave a big enough impression for me.
Wow... Here's another one that NEEDS time. It grows better and better... An oldie?
Taste: Overly woody on the palate, but the sweetness balances it out. Hey, liquorice?
Erm…. Well, I have to admit that after five minutes this whisky had evolved into medal material.
This was especially true after sellery and more organics emerged in the nose.
Score: 89 points - although it took a LOT of time getting there...
The Glenlossie 1993/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon cask, MM 0413)
Nose: Sweet and creamy - almost oily. It grows oilier - is that a Glenlossie characteristic?
Still, this remains on the gentle side - not a 'cod oil' monstrosity like the Isle of Jura 10yo.
Spices and organics. Based on the nose I could go for the 80's - but it's a bourbon cask...
Taste: Just as I feared - prickly and quite harsh. A beer-like bitterness in the finish.
This just isn't my kind of malt - too much like a blend or grain whisky for me... Wait...
It mellows out a bit over time, but just as the palate grows on me the nose drops off.
Score: 75 points - the endearing nose is all that keeps it from dropping below average.
Glenlossie 1977/2003 (45%, Samaroli '35th anniversary', C#633, 360 Bts.)
Nose: Light, grains, spicy - sweetening out. Pinch of salt. Slowly emerging organics.
Taste: Peppery. Dry with perhaps a pinch of salt. Bitter finish.
Score: 83 points - which makes it one of the best bottles of Glenlossie whisky I've tried so far.
Glenlossie 1993/2003 (43%, The Spirit Safe / Jean Donnay, 374 Bottles)
Nose: Fruity and a little oily. String beans. Rhubarb? Chalk? Citrus? Very odd.
A little restrained and water didn't seem to help much. Then it grows more mellow.
After that, more spices emerge. Unfortunately, it has the 'cod oil' I'm kind of allergic to.
Intriguing development; it grows fruitier and maltier over time and it really needs a while.
Taste: Fairly flat and weak start. Gritty and quite dry towards the hotter finish.
There's plenty of sweet liquorice in the start, developing into salt liquorice later on.
After a while it seems sweeter in the centre, but the finish still has a beer-like bitterness.
Score: 79 points - it improves with some time and air, but I still can't recommend it.
I had a hard time rating this one’- it’s a very odd puppy!
Glenlossie 10yo 1989/2000 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, distilled Autumn 1989, bottled Spring 2000)
(This bottling was not coloured and not chill filtered).
Nose: Soft, grainy start. Heather and lemon grass (?) after a minute.
Slightly oily. More spicy after some breathing. Water doesn't help.
Taste: Soft and faintly sweet at first, evolving into a warm maltiness.
Smooth and clean. Bourbon drought in the short finish. A little bland.
Conclusion: 68 points - One would expect a northern Speysider to show some Highland characteristics, but
this one seems more like an 'ersatz' Lowlander. I suspect this one would perform much better in the summer.
Glenlossie 17yo 1973 (40%, Antica Casa Marchesi)
Nose: The nose showed a lot of 'old bottle effect'; sourish with clear 'Maggi' tones and a hint of sulphur.
Taste: There was a lot of sherry on the palate but it was a 'fun' malt to taste.
I realise that doesn't tell you very much, but I don't know another way to describe it.
Score: 89 points - which was quite a surprise since other (younger) bottlings I've tried scored much lower.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glenlossie malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenlossie 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 Glenlossie.
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.