One of the key drivers of collectability in whisky over the past 30 years has been the undeniable allure of the closed distillery. Often discussed in mythological terms, they are depicted as formerly resplendent beasts now tragically lost to the annals of time. Terms like ‘silent’ and ‘ghost’ distillery intentionally evoke a sense of melancholy that is reflected in the very real impermanence of many names that, while still slowly dripping into the market, will one day disappear for good. For every new whisky enthusiast, there is another heart waiting to be broken by a revered era of whisky that they may never experience, and nothing captures the imagination quite like it.
Thankfully, the circumstances of most of the distillery closures of the 1980s and 1990s were due to oversupply, meaning there has been plenty of their whisky available through independent bottlers. These companies were often originally blenders and had been fortuitously buying casks from what became cult names like Port Ellen, Rosebank and Brora for years, ideally positioning them to inject historical context and intrigue into an emerging single malt market where the distillers were only focussed on their flagship brands.
The backdrop to earlier distillery closures was an entirely different whisky landscape, however, and one that has proven far less fertile by way of providing them with any tangible legacy. The shutterings of the ‘whisky loch’ years were preceded by mass rationalisation in the early decades of the 20th century, a period where single malt bottling was a rarity. For the curious, there is sadly little chance of owning – let alone tasting – examples of their unblended production. In instances where there are, their rarity is compounded by how long ago they were originally sold.
It is an exceptional privilege, therefore, to be able to offer a bottle of Glamis 10-year-old in our June 2023 auction. An old export brand of single malt, it was distilled at the Glenfyne distillery in the Argyll town of Ardrishaig. Also known as Glengilp and Glendarroch, it opened in 1831 and operated until 1937. Despite remaining part of the Robertson & Baxter group, it never distilled again and unlike the three more recent closures named earlier, never will. It was demolished in 1996.
Like most Glamis, the example in our auction was first sold in the US market and dates to sometime in the 1930s, neatly between the distillery’s closure and the end of Prohibition in 1933. To find a single malt bottling from this period is special, but for it to be some of the last of its kind is truly remarkable. The idea of a ‘lost distillery’ has proven in recent years to be no more than hyperbole in some cases, but this is a whisky from an era in which it is more than apt. At its best, whisky is a personal and experiential thing, so it is a sad realisation that great swathes of its history are now no more than names to be found in books. The spirit of Glenfyne is still with us however, for now at least.
This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and is created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.
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