All whiskies are rare, but some whiskies are rarer than others
– The Whiskyphiles
Many haven’t fathomed it yet but we are living in an Orwellian nightmare. Strong words I know, and I am sure much stronger have been uttered already at the current no age statement trend. A signal perhaps that the days of plucking your favourite 10 or 12 year old single malt scotch whisky off of the shelf may be numbered. The industry is attempting to engage with consumers by having ever more frequent ‘new releases’, invariably flavour-led NAS expressions, occasionally peppered with exorbitant vintage or single casks discovered ‘languishing’ at the back of a warehouse somewhere. The focus is on new; new flavours, new experiences, and not on the reproducibility of expertly marrying casks together to produce indistinguishable batches of classic, stable, age statement expressions. It is true however that every whisky is only around until it is gone. Some may be replicated or re-attempted or even released as specific batches, however this is only the case if your distillery remains operative, or in some cases, has enough stocks to cover occasional lengthy silent periods. So we come to the rarest of the rare, whisky from closed distilleries!
The number of closed distilleries is only going to increase! The reasons for closure can be numerous and varied with the biggest mass closure period occurring following the turn of the 19th century. Two world wars were not particularly good for the whisky business, however the problems started much earlier. Decline in production quality is often blamed for many distilleries demise, such that the effects of the First Wold War 1914-1918 simply sped-up the demise of many. Campbeltown crashed and most distilleries closed in the 1920’s and ’30’s as a result*. During this period the industry experienced an over 50 year hiatus in construction of new single malt distilleries until Tullibardine was constructed in 1949. Of those that followed some of those had relatively short operational lives too.
*Including; Annandale (1924), Auchinblae (1930), Ballechin (1927), Hazelburn (1925), Lochindaal & Port Charlotte (1929), Parkmore & Towiemore (1931)
The latest ‘mass extinction’ of distilleries occurred in the early 1980’s as a result of over-production, or under-consumption depending upon how you view it. White spirits were gaining in popularity and scotch suffered as a result, blends were losing favour and single malts as a category was still in its relative infancy. The whisky loch grew as years of stock laid down in anticipation of requirements or growth were not being used, prices of bulk stock slumped and production was reduced. Eventually many distilleries were viewed as surplus to need and some had production heavily restricted or were mothballed and closed. Thus the whisky industry is often viewed as boom and bust. The latest round of closures however left behind some gems, plus other more questionable stuff. Many of these closures were due to ‘a surplus to requirement’ and hence distilleries with high operating or modernisation costs were targeted and conversely some distilleries in ‘good’ visitor locations were spared. Needless to say some of those lost or retained were not done so specifically upon the quality of the whisky they may have produced. However many of them have left us liquid by which we can attempt to make some assessment of them whilst stocks, or more likely affordability, allows.
Buyers beware however, many are espousing the theory that whisky from closed distilleries represent great investment opportunities with prices on the secondary (auction) market only going to rise. True for sought after distilleries like Port Ellen or Brora with rare stocks and high quality. For some of the more recent closures however stocks are still good (and often quality variable or even poor in some cases) and if anything the primary market is already inflating prices to the extent that at best they break even at auction, losing you money after commission fees etc. I suspect this trend to remain unchanged for ~ 5-10 years until these stocks are diminished or depleted. The good news though is that current releases from some closed distilleries are still affordable for drinking and more so for drinking one and storing away a second bottle for a rainy day. The conundrum then lies in owning bottles that may become valued to highly and give you second thoughts about opening it. Let the fun commence!
The most recent mass closure of distilleries is detailed below, with our tasting notes where we have had the opportunity to sample from them. Regardless of quality or style, there is a certain joy at being able to sample a piece of liquid history that will never be repeated again, so if you have the chance to try these then take your time and enjoy them!
Founded in Speyside in 1863, mothballed in 1983 and demolished in the following years.
Built in 1819 as Clynelish, closed after the new Clynelish distillery opened in 1968 but re-opened due to necessity until mothballed in 1983 how it remains to this day.
- Brora 35 Years Old 1977 12th Release (49.9%, OB, Special releases, 2944 Bottles, 2013) - Brora 12th Release 35 Years Old 1977 – Special Releases 2013 49.9% ABV, £899 for 70cl available from The Whisky Exchange Score: 88/100 What they say: The 12th release of Brora from […]
Built in 1898, economic pressure and an unreliable water supply forced Dallas Dhu to close in 1983, and its distilling license was withdrawn in 1992. Re-opened to the public in 1988 as a museum under Scotland’s Historic Buildings and Monument Directorate
- Dallas Dhu 22 Years Old 1982 Vintage Collection (43%, Signatory, HH #705, 407 Bottles, 2005) - Dallas Dhu 22 Years Old 1982 Signatory Vintage Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Dallas Dhu Distillery Bottling: Signatory Cask #407 ABV: 43% Cost: ? What they say: Distilled […]
- Dallas Dhu 24 Years Old 1976 Old Malt Cask (50%, Douglas Laing, 630 Bottles, 2001) - Dallas Dhu 24 Years Old 1976 Old Malt Cask Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Dallas Dhu Distillery [closed] Bottling: Douglas Laing; Old Malt Cask ABV: 50% Cost: ~ […]
Established in 1846 on the banks of the River Ness, connected to Glen Mhor. Closed down 1983 and demolished 1986.
Established in 1892 on the banks of the River Ness. Closed down and demolished in 1983
Established in 1898 in Fort William, closed in 1983 and redeveloped in 1991 for housing.
Established in 1831 near Peterhead, closed in 1983.
Established in 1830 near Montrose, closed and demolished in 1983.
Established 1825, closed in 1983 when stills were removed, now part of the Port Ellen maltings complex.
St Magdalene / Linlithgow
Established 1753 in the town of Linlithgow, closed in 1983 and converted into housing.
- St Magdalene 24 Years Old 1982 Mission (58.3%, Murray McDavid, Port Finish, 446 Bottles, 2006) - Whisky Review: St Magdalene 24 Years Old 1982 Mission Port Finished Single malt scotch whisky 58.3% ABV, ~€90 at auction Score: 85/100 What they say: A 1982 vintage whisky from closed St […]
Established 1893 in Dufftown, closed and equipment removed in 1985, warehousing facility remains in use by William Grant & Sons.
Established in 1965 in Airdrie, closed in 1985.
Established 1897 near Montrose, closed in 1985 and site is now a maltings.
Established 1825 in Stonehaven, closed in 1985 and demolished.
Glenury Royal 1976 Connoiseurs Choice ~ 40% (Gordon & MacPhail) review to follow
Built in 1805 near Inverness, closed in 1985 with rumoured unreliable water supply, converted into a motel and restaurant.
- Millburn 15 Years Old 1983 87.4 (57.3%, SMWS, 1999) - SMWS 87.4 Whisky Review Category: Highland single malt scotch whisky Origin: Millburn Distillery [closed] Bottling: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Cask 87.4 ABV: 57.3% Cost: £150 buy from SMWS What they say: Distilled at […]
Established in 1825 south of Elgin in Speyside, operations ceased in 1985. Currently owned by independent bottler Murray McDavid who are investigating re-establishing distilling on this site.
Established in 1772 in Bowling to the west of Glasgow, closed in 1992 and final buildings lost to fire in 2005.
- Littlemill 22 Years Old 1992 Small Batch (53.7%, Cadenheads, Bourbon HHs, 2014) - Littlemill 22 Years Old 1992 Cadenhead Small Batch 53.7% ABV, £93.90 for 70cl Score: 85/100 What they say: Founded around 1750 it was one of the oldest established distilleries in Scotland until […]
- Littlemill 23 Years Old 1991 Cask#112 ~ 52.9% (Pearls of Scotland) - Littlemill 23 Years Old 1991 Cask#112 ~ 52.9% (Pearls of Scotland) 52.9% ABV, sold out but expect ~£125-£150+ Score: 85/100 What they say: Littlemill 23 Year Old 1991 Pearls of Scotland Single […]
- Littlemill 27 Year Old 1985/2012 (46%, Coopers Choice, Refill HH #110, 250 Bottles) - Littlemill 27 Year Old 1985 – The Coopers Choice (The Vintage Malt Whisky Company) 46% ABV, £85 for 70cl Score: 89/100 What they say: This was distilled at Littlemill in 1985 before […]
- Littlemill 27 Years Old 1992 Vintage (OB, 45.3%, 300 bottles, 2019) - Littlemill 1992 Vintage Whisky Review: Superb, aged and woody but still with a great sweetness and florality which is really fresh for its age. Fruity and zesty too in places, overwhelmingly maple syrup plus a wee hint of smoke and meatiness in here too. 90/100
- Littlemill 28 Years Old 1985 Treasurer Selection (50.5%, Robert Graham, Cask #99, 230 Bottles, 2013) - Littlemill 28 Years Old 1985 Treasurer’s Selection Whisky Review Category: Lowland single malt scotch whisky Origin: Littlemill Distillery [closed] Bottling: Robert Graham; Treasurer’s Selection ABV: 50.5% Cost: £250 from Robert Graham What they […]
- Littlemill 40 Years Old 1977 Celestial Edition (OB, 46.8%, 250 bottles, 2018) - Littlemill 40 Years Old Celestial Edition Whisky Review: Definitely sherry influenced, perhaps some of the sweeter and dried fruit/nut flavours belie that cask-driven final maturation, however they do not mask that florality of Littlemill's spirit character. 92/100
Established in 1957 in a former brewery in Montrose, closed after takeover by Allied Domecq in 1992, warehousing closed 1997 and demolished 2006.
- Lochside 13 Years Old 1991 – Connoisseurs Choice ~ 43% (Gordon and MacPhail) - Lochside 13 Years Old 1991 – Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon and MacPhail) 43% ABV, £50 for 70cl or £4.90 / dram @ The Whiski Rooms Edinburgh Score: 82/100 What they say: From: http://www.gordonandmacphail.com/connoisseurs-choice/connoisseurs-choice-lochside-distilled-1991-strength-43-67.html […]
Established in 1974 by Arthur Bell & Sons, closed and demolished in 2002.
Sampled Pittyvaich 20 Year Old 1989 (2009 Special Releases) ~ 40% (Diageo)
Established 1840 in Falkirk, closed in 1993 allegedly due to cost of modernisation in order to meet effluent quality legislation
- Rosebank 22 Years Old 1991 25.65 The whispered kiss (50%, SMWS, Refill Bourbon Barrel, 220 Bottles, 2014) - Rosebank 22 Years Old 1991 – 25.65 The whispered kiss Lowland single malt scotch whisky 50% ABV, £374.99 buy from SMWS Score: 90/100 What they say: Cask No. 25.65 A whispered kiss from […]
- Rosebank 22 Years Old 1991/2013 (55.2%, Mackillop’s Choice, Cask #271) - Rosebank 22 Years Old 1991 Single Cask #271 (Mackillop’s Choice) 55.2% ABV, £240 for 70cl Score: 89/100 What MoM says: A 22 year old single cask from Mackillop’s distilled at the celebrated […]
- Rosebank 23 Years Old 1990 25.68 Vichy Kisses (57.8%, SMWS, Refill Bourbon HH, 214 Bottles, 2014) - SMWS 25.68 Vichy Kisses Whisky Review Rosebank Distillery Scotch Malt Whisky Society Cask No. 25.68 Vichy Kisses 57.8% ABV £117.10 buy from SMWS Score: 91/100 What they say: Cask No. 25.68 The panel found […]
Established in 1897 in Speyside, operated sporadically until 1998 and demolished in 2013 for site redevelopment into Dalmunach distillery by owners Chivas Brothers.
- Imperial 10 Years Old 1998 Whisky Magazine – Editor’s Choice (53.6%, Duncan Taylor, American Oak HH, 252 Bottles, 2009) - Imperial 10 Years Old 1998 Speyside single malt scotch whisky 53.6% ABV, £55 at auction see Whisky Auctioneer item Score: 83/100 What they say: An Imperial selected by the Editor of Whisky […]
- Imperial 16 Years Old 1995 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46%, Signatory, HHs #50324+50325, 739 Bottles, 2012) - Imperial 16 Years Old 1995 (casks 50324+50325) Speyside single malt scotch whisky 46% ABV, £39.95 for 70cl Score: 86/100 What they say: From Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered range, this Imperial was distilled on the […]
- Imperial 17 Years Old 1995 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46%, Signatory, HH’s #50336+50337, 718 bottles, 2013) - Imperial 17 Years Old 1995 -The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (Signatory) 46% ABV, ~£38.36 for 70cl or £4.09 for 3cl from Drinks by the Dram Score: 84/100 What they say: This is an Un-Chillfiltered Imperial […]
- Imperial 18 Years Old 1993 Distillery Labels (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, 2011) - Imperial 18 Years Old 1993 Speyside single malt scotch whisky 43% ABV, ~ £45 for 70cl Score: 87/100 What they say: Colour: Golden amber. WITHOUT WATER: Nose: Initially creamy, perfumed and fresh. […]
- Imperial 18 Years Old 1995 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46%, Signatory, HHs #50284 & 50285, 711 Bottles, 2014) - Imperial 18 Years Old 1995 – Unchillfiltered 46% ABV, £41.95 for 70cl available from RMW Score: 85/100 What they say: A bit about the bottler Signatory Vintage are an independent bottler founded […]
- Imperial 18 Years Old 1995 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46%, Signatory, HHs #50288+50289, 742 Bottles, 2014) - Imperial 18 Years Old (casks 50288+50289) Speyside single malt scotch whisky 46% ABV, £42.52 for 70cl Score: 86/100 What they say: An un-chillfiltered Imperial single malt, bottled by the lovely folks at […]
- Imperial 19 Year Old 1995 Cask Strength Collection (54.6%, Signatory, Cask #50164, 273 Bottles, 2015) - Imperial 19 Year Old 1995 Cask Strength Collection Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Imperial Distillery (Closed) Bottling: Signatory Cask Strength Collection, Cask 50164 ABV: 54.6% Cost: £81.45 Score: […]
- Imperial 19 Years Old 1995 Distillery Labels (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, 2014) - Imperial 19 Years Old 1995 ~43% (Gordon & MacPhail) 43% ABV, £58.95 for 70cl Score: 89/100 What they say: A 1995 vintage whisky from closed (although rumours are abound of its resurrection) […]
- Imperial 20 Year Old 1995 Cask Strength Collection (51.0%, Signatory, HH #50154, 257 Bottles, 2016) - Imperial 20 Year Old 1995 Cask Strength Collection Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Imperial Distillery Bottling: Signatory, Cask Strength Collection, Cask 50154 ABV: 51.0% Cost: £81.21 Score: 90/100 What […]
- Imperial 20 Years Old 1995 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46%, Signatory, HH 50248 & 50249, 2016) - Imperial 20 Years Old 1995 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection whisky review: A fascinating dram, possibly the least favoured by many at the table but also disappeared the fastest! Make of that what you will, this dram was much more funky and dusty then the final dram of the evening... 87/100
- Imperial 22 Years Old 1998 Monologue (52.1%, Chapter 7, Bourbon Barrel #104355, 218 Bottles, 2020) - A mature, gentle and reserved Imperial expression, packed full of well aged fruit and wood with a focus on deep citrus zest. 91/100
- Imperial 23 Years Old 1990 Old & Rare – A Platinum Selection (57.9%, Hunter Laing, Sherry Butt, 302 Bottles, 2013) - Imperial 23 Years Old 1990 Old & Rare Platinum Selection Speyside single malt scotch whisky 57.9% ABV, £230 for 70cl Score: 88/100 What they say: A 23 year old single malt from […]
- Imperial-Glenlivet 37 Years Old 1977 Single Cask (53.5%, Cadenheads, Bourbon HH, 204 Bottles, 2015) - Whisky Review: Imperial-Glenlivet 37 Years Old 1977 Single Cask Speyside single malt scotch whisky 53.5% ABV, £260 for 70cl from Wm Cadenhead’s Score: 86/100 What they say: Distilled 1977, Bottled January 2015, […]
Established in 1898 as Glen Grant #2, operated for only 4 years, rebuilt in 1965, closed in 2001 and demolished 2010.
- Caperdonich 14 Years Old 1999 Connoisseurs Choice (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Refill Sherry Butts, 2013) - Caperdonich 14 Years Old 1999 Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail) 46% ABV, £40 for 70cl Score: 79/100 What they say: A sumptuous Speyside single malt which slumbered in Sherry butts from 1999 to […]
- Caperdonich 17 Years Old 1995 The Rare Casks Release 1 (57.8%, Abbey Whisky, 96 bottles, 2012) - Caperdonich 17 Years Old The Rare Casks Release 1 by Abbey Whisky 96 bottles @ 57.8% ABV, distilled 1995, bottled 2012, £59.50 for 70cl Score 87/100 What they say: The 1st release […]
- Caperdonich 18 Year Old 1995 Berrys’ (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Cask #95076, 2014) - Caperdonich 18 Year Old 1995 BBR Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Caperdonich Distillery Bottling: Berry Bros & Rudd Cask 95076 ABV: 46% Cost: £87.61 What they say: A […]
- Caperdonich 20 Years Old 1996 Cask Ends (48.9%, WM Cadenhead, Sherry Finish, 2016) - Caperdonich 20 Years Old 1996 Cadenhead’s Cask Ends Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Caperdonich Distillery Bottling: Cadenhead’s Cask Ends ABV: 48.9% Cost: £110 What they say: Distilled at […]
- Caperdonich 21 Years old 1994 Xtra Old Particular (57.7%, Douglas Laing, Cask #10769, 270 Bottles, 2015) - Caperdonich 21 Years old 1994 Xtra Old Particular whisky review: Quite spiced but in a really great way, massive old/tropical fruits in this one. A little camphory towards the end perhaps indicative of not the best i.e. 2nd/3rd fill or later cask but this is still good stuff and adds character rather than detracts from this whisky. 88/100
- Caperdonich 22 Years Old 1997 (60.5%, LOTG Bourbon Barrel #19130, 171 Bottles, 2020) - Caperdonich 22 Years Old Whisky Review: A real cake of a dram, there is some tropical fruit notes and plenty of tannic oaky spice which reveals its age. Coupled with that odd acidity and over tannic oak I can't help but be reminded of mango balsamic vinegar. 91/100