Anyway, just visit the Bang-For-Your-Buck List for more
details about the many frustrations of a price-obsessed,
penny-pinching Dutchman - or the Hit List for a bunch of
single malts that are among my personal favourites. The
other sections of this site look at the 'consumption' end
of malt whisky; the 'Distillery Data' section is dedicated
to the 'production' end of things. Here, I try to find out
which factors shape the character of a malt whisky.
After I decided that I needed to sample at least six different expressions from every active distillery in Scotland I expanded the scope of my malt mission. But why did my 'to do list' only include the active distilleries? Well, with every cask of Ladyburn or Glen Flagler that gets bottled, potential new bottlings from silent distilleries become rarer - and therefor more expensive. I guess it all depends on the size of your wallet, but I start to lose interest when the price of a bottle exceed 100 Euro's. Because the chances of finding a bottle of Brora or Port Ellen for less than 100 Euro's have grown increasingly slim (unless it's a fake), I tend to spend most of my money on far more 'mundane' single malts.
After basking in the warm glow of triumph for roughly two or three seconds,
a sobering insight dawned on me. The distillery of birth (and the region in
Scotland where it is located) is only one of many, many different factors that
influence a whisky. As it turned out, my research mission had only just begun.
Maybe trying to say anything 'serious' about a distillery in Scotland after having sampled three different bottlings is almost just as mad as trying to say anything after tasting just one expression, but sampling a statistically significant number (let's say a dozen) is simply beyond the stretch of my wallet. So, I decided fairly arbitrarily on my goal during phase III of my mission; trying to sampling six (or more) bottlings from every active distillery in Scotland.
You can use the Distillery Data Overview as a 'preliminary distillery guide'. I'll try to keep the pages as up-to-date as possible, but
it's hard to keep track of the status of some distilleries.
I use the world wide web for much of my 'research', but sometimes I'm confronted with conflicting information. Just before I started this page (autumn of 2002) I learned that Allt-A-Bhainne, Benriach, Braes of Glenlivet and Caperdonich were mothballed. But when I went on-line to check the validity of the data I found out that lots of other whisky websites still listed these distilleries as 'active'.
Well, that's just aggravating... When malt maniac Serge asked Pernod Ricard about these mothballings they replied;
"We are committed to the long term growth of the Scotch Whisky business and the development of our
brands. Following the completion of a review of our distilling operations, Chivas Brothers will concentrate the
production of its premium blended and malt whiskies at six distilleries: Aberlour, Glenallachie, The Glenlivet,
Glen Grant, Strathisla and Longmorn. In order to balance customer requirements, inventory levels and sales
forecasts, this will involve the temporary closure of the distilling facilities at Allt a Bhainne, Braeval, Benriach
and Caperdonich. Whilst there are no immediate plans for the reopening of these four facilities, they are not
being permanently closed and remain in our plans as we look to grow our business and to maintain the
high quality..." <snip>
That was in 2002 - it goes without saying I have mixed feelings
about the game of mothball that's
been going on. But as sad as I feel about the disappearance of active distilleries from the Scottish
landscape, it would make my 'job' a lot easier. I wouldn't have to sample any bottlings from these
silent distilleries during phase II & III of my 'Scotland by Dram' project - well, at least not until they're
revived again. And actually, that's what happened in many cases. When I wrote the latest update of
this page in 2009, Allt-A-Bhainne, Benriach and Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval) all had been revived; only
Caperdonich has remained mothballed. Given the credit crisis that hit the world in the late noughties,
it's not very likely that Caperdonich will be revived any time soon. If experiences with other closed
distilleries are any indication, the longer a distillery remains inactive, the less likely a revival becomes.
Fortunately, it's not all about death and destruction in Scotland. Take Bladnoch, for example.
This Lowland distillery was mothballed by UDV in 1993, but revived again by Raymond Armstrong in 1999.
Or take Balmenach - it was mothballed in 1993, but Inver House bought it in 1997 and production resumed again in March 1998. They now produce almost 2 million litres of alcohol each year. When Inver House purchased the distillery from Diageo, they did not get the maturing stocks so their own official bottling is still quite a few years off, I guess.
And it's not all about reviving lost distilleries either. There are currently a few exciting new projects in the works, like the Abhainn Dearg distillery ('Red River') on the isle of Lewis or the Kilchoman distillery on Islay. Not all new projects are off to a good start though; the Blackwood distillery on the Shetlands proved to be a pipe dream
and the same is probably true for the Ladybank distillery in the Lowlands. Anyway - the aforementioned 'projects' page provides an
up-to-date overview of the new malt whisky distillery projects in Scotland.
As far as active distilleries are concerned, you can find a (hopefully complete) overview at the left.
The links in the list at the left lead to the distillery profiles with some basic statistics like the number of stills, the water source for the distillery, the production capacity, the region, the address, the URL of the website, etcetera. Apart from these statistics you'll find a few paragraphs with a historic overview and tasting notes for at least six bottlings. And did I mention my Track Record already? I don't think I did. The profiles on the active distilleries contain a handful of tasting notes, but my Track Record gives you a full overview of all the Scotch single malt whiskies I've tried during 'a decade of heavy dramming' between 1995 and 2006. When this website finally crashed in 2006, the 'malt mileage'
counter said +/- 2000 Scotch single malt whiskies sampled and scored...
Join the MM mailinglist if you want to stay updated on changes and additions to the distillery profiles.
There are many other influences that shape a freshly distilled spirit...
Take the type of cask it was poured into, for example. Or the time it spent
in that cask. That's why I decided that I had to expand my investigation.
I wouldn't be able to say anything meaningful about a distillery until I tried
at least half a dozen different expressions. If possible, I needed to sample
both younger and older bottlings, matured in different cask types. To keep
track of my progress and findings I added this Distillery Data section to MM.
Apart from the general overview of Scottish distilleries on the main page,
this section of Malt Madness contains an overview of whisky brand names,
a list of the main independent bottlers, some ideas about the importance
of whisky regions in Scotland, this page about active distilleries as well as
an overview of the silent stills (distilleries that were closed during the past
three decades as well as the freshly started distillery projects in Scotland.
The 'malt mania' never stops. After I discovered the
miracles of single malt whisky in the early 1990's I
spent most of that decade trying to track down, nose,
taste and score at least one expression from every
active single malt whisky distillery in Scotland.
I accomplished this goal around the year 2000.
After I had sampled and scored at least one bottling
from every active distillery around the year 2000, I
briefly believed that I had achieved something special.
Unfortunately, the illusion didn't last for very long...
In the distillery profiles I've collected information about the location, history
and equipment of each malt whisky distillery in Scotland, as well as tasting
notes on at least a dozen different expressions. But why at least a dozen
different versions, you ask? Well, the answer lies in the past...
Ah, I remember it well... November 11, 2001 seemed like such an historic
date at first. It was the first day I could proudly say that I had 'seriously'
sampled at least one bottle from each active distillery in Scotland (and
quite a few silent distilleries as well).
However, it wasn't long afterwards that I realised that there was actually
little reason for pride and joy. Trying to say anything meaningful about a
distillery based on just one bottle of whisky is pure and utter madness.
Although 'madness' is exactly what this website is all about, I'm actually
quite serious when it comes to my single malt whisky research...
Well, at least this used to be the case during the height of my malt mania
in the late 1990's.
Even at the start of this millennium I've seen very decent bottlings like the Ardbeg 10yo for as little as 25 Euro's. That's 'Bang-For-Your-Buck'! Oh, how the times have changed... Carpetbaggers and perfume conglomerates like Louis Vuitton have taken over legendary distilleries like Ardbeg and the quality/price ratio of many old favourites has plummeted.