The Whiskyphiles

Whiskyphile, noun [C] specialized / ˈwɪɪl / a disciplined devotion to whisky. Established 2013.

Glen Elgin

Glen Elgin Distillery

Region: Speyside, Scotland.

Founded: 1898

Status: Active

Owner: Diageo

Water source: Millbuies Loch Springs

Stills: 3x Wash 3x Spirit

Capacity: 1.83 million litres per annum

Glen Elgin Distillery nestles quietly in the heart of Speyside. Situated approximately 3 miles south of Elgin on the road to Rothes, it was the last distillery to be built during the boom years of the 1890s. The architect, Charles Doig, stated it would be the last one built in Speyside for 50 years. His prediction was remarkably accurate with Tormore being the next distillery built, in 1958.


Initially Glen Elgin did not have problems to seek. The owners, William Simpson, a former manager of Glenfarclas, and James Carle, an agent for the North of Scotland Bank, saw their investment of £13,000 plummet to £4,000 when they sold the distillery in 1901.The original site was chosen for its water source and close proximity to the railway line. Unfortunately the water source proved unreliable and permission for a railway siding was refused. The distillery soldiered on through several owners before becoming part of DCL in the 1930s. It was then licensed to White Horse Distillers Ltd.

Until the 1950s the distillery was entirely operated and lit by paraffin. All machinery was driven by a paraffin engine and a water turbine. It was a full-time job to keep the paraffin lights burning. Today, the distillery still proudly depicts the White Horse emblem and is part of UDV’s “Elgin Group”, along with Linkwood, Glenlossie and Mannochmore. The whisky is still a key component of White Horse blended whisky, which is exported to over 200 countries worldwide.

In walking around the distillery you are struck by the contrasts in old and new, big and small.

The distillery has a huge storage capacity for malted barley. The 36 malt bins can hold 400 tonnes – more than the 3 other distilleries in the Elgin group combined. However the ISR (intermediate spirit receiver) which collects the spirit from the stills is very small and has to be pumped empty 3 times a day.

Recent investment has seen a new full lauter mash tun installed, replacing the old traditional tun with its geared rakes. The mash is now continually sparged as opposed to adding separate waters. The worts however are transferred to traditional wooden wash backs for fermentation. The distillery’s floor maltings were decommissioned in the 1960s with the malt being supplied by large industrial maltings. However, worm tubs were retained for the cooling of the distillate.

Although the distillery has seen major refurbishment it retains the look and feel of a small, traditional distillery. There are no space-age computer panels and the highly regarded whisky continues to be made with a hands-on approach.

The stills and worms
The Glen Elgin spirit and wash stills are similar in size and shape, although the spirit stills have a flatter pot. There is a gentle incline on the lyne arms which lead outside to the worm tubs.

The distillery operates a balanced distilling process: each wash back provides 6 individual charges for the wash stills; two wash distillations make up the charge for a spirit distillation. This makes for a busy shift in the still house with 9 separate still charges to be made.

Using worm tubs to cool the distilled vapours, as opposed to condensers, adds a depth and richness to the spirit. An added bonus are the fresh water shrimp which thrive in the tubs.

Glen Elgin whisky reviews:

  • glen_elgin_12 Glen Elgin 12 Years Old ~ 43% (Diageo) - Glen Elgin 12 Years Old (Official Bottling) 43% ABV, £37 for 70cl Score 64/100 What they say: From Founded at the end of the whisky boom in 1898, it was built and designed by the notable distillery architect Charles Doig of Elgin. Today, as the summer house-martins swoop among the worm tubs at the distillery […]
  • Glen Elgin 17 Years Old 1995 ~ 46% (Milroy’s of Soho) - Glen Elgin 17 Years Old 1995 Speyside single malt scotch whisky 46% ABV, £55 for 70cl from Milroy’s of Soho Score: 82/100 What they say: Distilled in 1995 – Bottled 2013 – Region: Speyside – Cask: Hogshead – Number of Bottles: 348 What I say: Sampled during Milroy’s of Soho Tweet Tasting 2 Nose: more rounded […]
  • glen-elgin-1998-bottled-2014-connoisseurs-choice-gordon-and-macphail-whisky Glen Elgin 1998 (Bottled 2014) Connoisseur’s Choice ~ 46% (Gordon & MacPhail) - Whisky Review: Glen Elgin 1998 (Bottled 2014) Connoisseur’s Choice Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Glen Elgin Distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail; Connoisseur’s Choice ABV: 46% Cost: £61.72 from Master of Malt What they say: In the mid-1960s Gordon & MacPhail took the unprecedented step of launching a range of single malts under the […]
  • glen-elgin-20-year-old-1995-claxtons-whisky Glen Elgin 20 Year Old 1995 ~ 51.5% (Claxton’s) - Whisky Review: Glen Elgin 20 Year Old 1995 Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Glen Elgin Distillery Bottling: Claxton’s ABV: 51.5% Cost: £91.42 from Master of Malt What they say: Glen Elgin is perhaps one of the lesser-known malt whisky distilleries in Scotland, despite having a strong following among whisky aficionados. Since its establishment in […]
  • Glen Elgin 28 Years Old 1985 85.26 Fragrant perfumes and deeper resonances ~ 44.5% (SMWS) - Glen Elgin 28 Years Old 1985 – 85.26 Fragrant perfumes and deeper resonances Speyside single malt scotch whisky 44.5% ABV, £91.90 buy from SMWS Score: 92/100 What they say: Cask No. 85.26  Fragrantly perfumed, but with deeper aspects, the nose conveyed toffee popcorn, puff candy, beeswax, hob-nobs and vanilla ice-cream; also peach and mango, hessian and […]
  • GlenElgin RC Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 22 Years Old 1991 Rum Cask ~ 56.8% (Cadenhead’s) - Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 22 Years Old 1991 Rum Cask Speyside single malt scotch whisky 56.8% ABV, £79.90 for 70cl available from Wm Cadenheads Score: 88/100 What they say: William Cadenhead’s are Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers of whisky established in 1842. Distilled in 1991 and bottled at cask strength in 2013. Only 498 bottles produced. Nose: Dried […]
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