Whisky Magazine Issue 15
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Robin Brilleman takes a tour of the Scottish Highlands and visits the distilleries that have, over the course of time, ceadsed production but whose malts have left a lasting imprint on whisky history.
Usually I visit working distilleries on my trips to Scotland, so it's a little strange and a tad eerie to be on the lookout for distilleries that have, for whatever reason, stopped producing. The buildings are often still standing, albeit deserted, but more often than not the distillery has, sadly, been demolished or is in use for purposes other than distilling malt whisky.
The journey begins in the northern Highlands, just north of the village of Brora, where a kiln and a yellow chimney mark the buildings of the eponymous distillery. Built in 1819 by the Marquis of Stafford, later to be the first Duke of Sunderland, the distillery was originally named Clynelish. This is now the name of the more modern distillery on the other side of the road which opened in 1969 and is still in production. The Duke of Sunderland built the original distillery to provide his tenant farmers with guaranteed demand for their barley, so that in turn his rental income was also guaranteed. The draff (the remains after the mash) was used as food for his tenants' cattle, while the coal to heat the stills came from a nearby coalmine.
In spite of the fact that the new Clynelish distillery was triple the size, the old Clynelish stayed in production. What did change, however, was the malt. From 1970 onwards the distillery's product became more peaty, resembling an Islay malt. It was rumoured that this was done so that Clynelish's output could replace that of Caol Ila Distillery while the latter was bein...