It's conceivable that W. & A. Gilbey managed to escape the Pattison
crisis relatively unscathed thanks to their investments in gin. They
owned Strathmill until 1962, along with Knockando and Glen Spey.
In 1962 W. & A. Gilbey merged with United Wine Traders (a group that
included Justerini & Brooks) to form International Distillers & Vintners,
IDV, predecessors of Diageo).
A second pair of stills was added in 1968.
At this time the spirit stills at Strathmill were also fitted with purifiers
on their lyne-arms (the pipes running down from the top of the still) to
help produce a lighter type of spirit.
In 1972 IDV was bought by Watney Mann, a brewery that was formed
in 1958 with the merger of Watney, Coombe, Reid & Co. Ltd. with
Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd. Most of the brewing took place at the
former Mann's plant. Watney Mann merged with Grand Metropolitan
Hotels in 1972 and the brewery was closed in 1979. The new owners
charged Justerini & Brooks with managing the Strathmill distillery.
And that's all I have to tell about Strathmill. Because the vast majority
of the output has always been destined for blends I have fairly limited
experience with the malt whisky - and I'm afraid that the only really recommendable releases were a Cadenhead's bottling from 1992 and
the Strathmill 28yo 1975/2003 (44%, Secret Treasures, 554 Bottles).
Strathmill (Pronounced: just like it's written)
Strathisla, Glen Keith, Aultmore, Glentauchers
Local springs (cooling water from the Isla river)
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
1,800,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo > UDV (since 1997)
Keith, Banffshire, AB55 5DQ, Scotland, UK
No - only a 'Flora & Fauna' bottling
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - The first ever (semi-)official bottling of Strathmill is released a 'Flora & Fauna' 12yo.
2009 - In July 2009 a new operations manager starts work at Strathmill distillery: Alistair Abbott.
Some of the buildings on the Strathmill distillery
complex are actually
older than the distillery itself - they were once part of a corn mill. This
mill was founded in 1823 while the conversion to a whisky distillery
took place in 1891. At this time the name was still Glenisla-Glenlivet.
The conversion from a corn mill to a distillery was probably inspired by
the whisky boom of the late 19th century. Between 1890 and 1899
almost thirty malt whisky distilleries were founded. The list includes
distilleries like Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach,
Benromach, Caperdonich, Coleburn, Convalmore, Craigellachie,
Dallas Dhu, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenlochy, Glen Mhor,
Glen Moray, Glentauchers, Hillside, Imperial, Knockandu, Knockdhu, etc.
Some of these distilleries were converted mills, just like Glenisla-Glenlivet. In 1895 the gin
producers W. & A. Gilbey bought the distillery and changed the name to Strathmill. In fact,
this company also owned the Knockando distillery for many decades before it evolved into
IDV; International Distillers and Vintners, which was later incorporated in Diageo. The basis
of this name is the Gaelic word 'Strath' which means 'shallow valley'. The source of the word
'mill' is more mundane - the buildings used to be a mill. Most sources claim it was a corn mill
but some people say it was an oatmeal or flour mill. In the name of the nearby Strathisla
distillery the word 'Isla' refers to the Isla river that flows alongside the distillery.
The whisky boom of the 1880's and 1890's ended not long after Pattison, Elder & Co
were bankrupted in 1898. This bankruptcy of the brothers Robert & Walter Pattison sent shock waves through the Scotch whisky industry; its effects were so profound that the story of 'The Pattison Crisis' is still being told in the whisky world as a cautionary tale. The brothers started out as dairy traders in Edinburgh. When demand for Scotch whisky exploded in the 1880's and 1890's, the Pattisons smelled an opportunity and started a blending & retailing company in 1887. In 1889 they collected 100.000 pounds at the stock exchange.
Thanks to lots of advertising and massive sums of borrowed money the Pattison's whisky empire grew rapidly and they soon owned half of Glenfarclas and large chunks of Oban and Aultmore. However, like every bubble, the whisky bubble of the late 19th century had to burst at some point. When it did, it turned out that some business practices of the Pattisons were illegal. What's more, their credit wasn't nearly as good as many people in the whisky industry had assumed. Because they purchased large quantities of whisky many suppliers were willing to extend long lines of credit to the Pattison brothers. When the company eventually went bankrupt many distilleries and other businesses in the whisky i8ndustry got into trouble. In the end the brothers went to prison.
1) According to a stash of local newspapers that were embedded with a foundation stone of the Strathmill distillery there had already been a distillery on this location in the 1820's.
2) Strathmill was originally established as a mill (corn, flour or oatmeal) by A. G. Johnstone in 1823.
It this time the name of the complex was Strathisla Mills. After it was converted into a distillery the name was changed to Glenisla-Glenlivet. The name Glenisla refers to the distillery's close proximity to the River Isla.
3) The name Strathmill means 'the mill in the long valley'.
The distillery is located near the old railway line to Dufftown.
4) It is said that Strathmill released their first single malt in 1909. However, most of the output of the distillery has always been destined for blends like J&B and Dunhill.
5) There are seven warehouses on site; five traditional dunnage warehouses and two racked warehouses.
6) All freshly distilled spirit is tankered away to Auchroisk for filling; only part is matured at the distillery.
Strathmill 31yo 1976/2008 (44.8%, Adelphi, C#1126, 227 Bts.)
Nose: An odd mixture of metallic and farmy. Growing complexity when spices join the party.
Unfortunately, the complexity vanishes again after a few minutes.
Taste: Smooth and a little fruity. Woody finish with quite a bite. Long and dry.
The centre seems to grow a little sweeter over time, but all in all it's not especially complex.
Score: 75 points - which is a bit disappointing given the age, price and bottler.
Strathmill 11yo 1992/2004 (59.7%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Barrel, January 2004, 84 Bottles)
Nose: Old coffee and dust followed by weird organics. Smells a bit like 'antiquity'.
Taste: Mocca. Feels a bit like a rhum - a gritty smoothness, if than makes any sense.
Score: 84 points - Strange, but I like that. Well, not always...
Strathmill 11yo 1988/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, D10/88, B6/00, 420bt.)
Nose: Soft start, growing sweetish and malty with 'veggy' overtones. Something nutty?
It reminded me a bit of Glenfiddich 12yo and Balvenie 10yo - a classic, light Speysider.
Grainy. Play-Do. It grows a little more 'coastal' over time. Quite interesting, but not very nice.
Taste: Gritty and dry start. It sweetens up for just a few seconds before growing dry again.
Hot. Coffee beans? Maybe some menthol freshness in the back of my throat. Nothing fancy.
Score: 63 points - which means it scores somewhere inbetween the old Glenfiddich NAS and the latest batches of the new 12yo bottling. This one loses some points in the dry finish. Tastes like dead wood... I'm afraid this stinking little puppy will pull down Douglas Laing's average score on the MMMonitor quite a bit.
Strathmill 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Rather nondescript. Nutty and oily. Faint hints of lemon, molasses and smoke.
Taste: Smooth, sweet and malty at first, then menthol and eucalyptus screw it up.
Score: 70 points - Maybe this is a typical 'blenders' malt? It might not work very well on its own, but it could have a role in the composition of a blend. I can't think of another reason the Strathmill distillery has survived so far.
Strathmill 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Strange! Some sweetness, some smoke? A lot going on in the background.
Opens up after 15 minutes; sweeter with more citrus tones. Intriguing.
Taste: Dull start, a little sweeter over time. A bit malty.
Orange skin flints. Apples and menthol in the strange, long, dry finish.
Score: 67 points - This Strathmill is no smoothie, but it has an interesting nose.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Strathmill 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 Strathmill page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Strathmill 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.)
Is the distillery or