The distillery on the border of the Lowlands used to be
owned by the North British Distillery Company Limited
but in 1993 the ownership passed to Lothian Distillers Ltd.
Operations at the North British grain distillery started in 1887.
Over the years the distillery grew into Scotland's second
largest grain whisky distillery with an annual production
capacity of circa 64,000,000 litres of alcohol per year.
The North British distillery was established in 1885. The founders of the
distillery (near Edinburgh) were a group of local businessmen, including one
Adrew Usher, who was one of the first merchants to market a blended whisky.
The North British distillery produces the grain whisky for many different blends.
The brands include Chivas Regal, Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, J&B and Lang's. North British also produces other
spirits like gin and vodka. In 1916 the distillery was converted so it would be able to produce acetone from maize.
Lothian Distillers Ltd. was a 50:50 joint
venture between two conglomerates;
The Edrington Group (with their
subsidiary Highland Distillers) and
Grand Metropolitan plc. (which was
a predecessor of Diageo).
However, North British never actually
produced any acetone - possibly due to
the developments during WWI.
In 1948 North British was the very first
distillery in Scotland to use a so-called
Saladin Box for malting its barley.
Many malt whisky distilleries would
follow circa two decades later.
So, these days the ownership of the
North British distillery is shared between
Diageo and the Edrington Group.
Single Malt Whisky Basics - The first chapter of the Beginner’s Guide deals with the basic whisky knowledge.
Scotch Whisky Distillation - In the 4th chapter of the guide you can find more details about distillation.
Distillery Data Overview - An overview of all active and recently closed Scotch whisky distilleries.
Scotch Whisky Brands - The list of whisky brands will never be complete, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
You can find my tasting notes for a few single grain bottlings below;
North British 1978/2005 (55.1%, Duncan Taylor, dtc-5/015, Bottled 6/4/05)
Nose: It reminded me a bit of an old rum - Jamaican? Smooth & sweet.
Hint of dust. Once again I like the profile, but there's little development.
When I got bored I added some water, which made it appear nuttier.
Taste: Sweet, soft start. A big, round sweetness fills your mouth.
A tad dry in the finish. In many malts the sweetness is a 'bonus' on top of
certain specific fruity or vanilla notes. Here the sweetness stands on its own.
And it keeps standing on its own there is no real development.
Score: 77 points - a very decent grain whisky, but not quite as special as
some other very old grain whiskies I’ve sampled.
North British 21yo ????/2000 (57.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection,
Bourbon Hogshead, Bottled September 2000, 228 Bottles).
Nose: Polished with a lot of fruits. Fairly light and accessible,
For a 21yo whisky it doesn't show much complexity or development though.
Taste: It started out sweet on the palate - nice and chewy. Easily drinkable
The sweetness vanishes much too quickly.
However, this whisky makes a low profile comeback after a little while.
Score: 64 points - which really isn't too impressive considering its age.
This grain whisky has spent over two decades maturing in a cask....
North British 18yo 1979/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Single Grain)
Nose: Ah, sherry and furniture polish. We have some good stuff now!
Sweet and woody. The wood grows stronger - almost seems like a cognac or armagnac after some breathing.
Aaah, this opens up very nicely. Even sweeter with time. Whiff of menthol, followed by organics.
Taste: Woody with a subdued fruitiness at first. Dry. Wood remains the dominant factor.
It took me some time to really start liking it. Maybe too woody for some. Smoke perhaps?
Score: 82 points - just a tad too woody and gritty on the palate to reach the upper 80's.
North British 25yo 1964/1990 (46%, Signatory Vintage, C#10451-10454, 1300 Bts., 75cl)
Nose: Clearly grain whisky, like the Greenore - but more metallic. medicinal - not in a good way.
Sourish - something must have gone wrong here... Like an old wet dirty cloth. Well, at least it has character...
Taste: Very weird start. Metallic again. Dust. Aspirin bitterness. Yuck! This drained all my sympathy quickly.
Score: 30 points - the only reason I rank this above the Johnnie Walker Red is the (sort of) interesting nose.
One of the skeletons in Andrew Symington's closet I guess ;-)
North British 45yo 1962/2007 (59.9%, The Prestonfield, C#46556, 235 bottles)
Nose: Very smooth. Old, dark fruits - but only briefly. Turns flat after that, with perhaps a hint of rubber or glue?
Taste: Powerful yet smooth - but hard to describe. Weird sweetness. Menthol? Pinch of peat?
Interesting but not really my cup of tea. Grain whiskies often have a smooth but superficial mouth feel.
Score: 82 points - impressive for a grain whisky, but then again this whisky has had 45 years to prepare...