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Issue 46 - Meet the awkward squad

Whisky Magazine Issue 46
March 2005


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Meet the awkward squad

The basic process of making whisky is similar throughout the world. But there are always some who have to be different. Dave Broom meets the misfits

There is something about the misfit which attracts me. Iconoclasts, outsiders, people who challenge the norm, look at it from an original, if skewed, perspective and who by doing so, make the field wider.

This questioning nature is at the heart of distillation. It's part of a whisky distiller's job to ask the awkward questions, for the simple reason that they need to produce as many different flavours as possible; and the reason they need to do that is because of blends.

A deep irony lies at the heart of today's whisky consumption. Malt is revered because of its individuality. Conversely, blends are rejected because they are perceived as having less character. Yet malts' singularity is primarily the result of blenders demanding that they should be this way because that is what their blends needed!

The personality of each distillery wasn't created to satisfy the whims of the 21st century malt drinker, it was established to give the blender as wide a palette of flavours as possible and that has meant looking at the whisky-making process and tweaking it into some pretty strange shapes.

The following three Diageo-owned distilleries are among the strangest of all. They're the firm's awkward squad. My guide around them was Douglas Murray, who is in charge of new make quality at Diageo. He's a chemist, but don't hold that against him.


Despite being the first distillery built in Dufftown, Mortlach is hidden from view. It has no visitors' centre, its entrance is on a sh...

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