Dailuainne is a Speyside distillery that goes about its business relatively unnoticed despite being established in 1852, which predates many other distilleries built during the boom period of the 1890’s. That’s mainly because Dailuainne has produced for blended whiskies and continues to do so under the ownership of Diageo today, with particular focus given to the Johnnie Walker range.
William MacKenzie founded the distillery before passing away in 1865 with the reins passing to his wife, who shortly afterwards leased the distillery to James Fleming from Aberlour. This is the same successful Fleming who established Aberlour distillery in 1879. Forming a partnership with William’s son around the same time, they then embarked on rebuilding and extending the existing Dailuainne site to meet with increased demand by doubling the number of stills to 4. This work was completed by 1887, but improvements were still sought and 1889 brought Dailuainne’s claim to fame as it was the first distillery to showcase the pagoda style roof designed by Charles Doig.
Together the partners founded the Dailuainne-Glenlivet Distillery Limited in 1891, which then merges in 1898 with the Talisker distillery Limited. This begins the path towards the Diageo stable where it resides today, as in 1925; Distillers Company Limited takes ownership, which was a forerunner for Diageo.
For Dailuainne it survived the harsh economic climate of the early 1900’s, only to fall victim to a fire in 1917 that sadly destroyed the original pagoda concept. This forces the distillery to close and it’s around the time of the First World War, with the end result being Dailuainne did not return to production until 1920. Since then it has experienced a relatively uneventful life, apart from an extensive refurbishment in 1960, which prompted the closure of the maltings in favour of the installation of the Saladin box. The number of stills was also increased, this time resulting in today’s total of 6, with their heating changed to a steam system in 1965. The Saladin box only lasted until 1983 when further efficiencies were sought around the malting process that moved to a central facility and was shipped to the distillery. Further efficiencies were sought in 2012 when production was increased substantially with the recent addition of a bio-energy plant.
It took until 1991 for Dailuainne to receive its first official single malt release as part of the Flora & Fauna series. This range was created to showcase distilleries such as Dailuainne; focused on producing content for the blended market and without a single malt presence of their own. There is no disrespect by not being granted a single malt range, Dailuainne has received strong support from the independent sector for its classic Speyside characteristics. The whisky blends are the backbone of the Scottish whisky industry and require huge amounts of consistent stocks to keep them in supply and consistent. With the recent refurbishment of Clynelish halting production in 2016 at Brora, Dailuainne was selected to replicate its distinctive waxy characteristic with changes in to its standard distillation practices. Whether these are successful remains to be seen, but it’ll be worth remembering in the future when independent bottlings from this period start appearing at retail.
The 16-year-old Flora & Fauna release is still available in many Diageo distillery shops today and remains the most common expression from the distillery. In 1996, Dailuainne also formed part of the Rare Malts range with a 22-year-old, before a limited Manager’s Dram bottling at the turn of the millennium. Then Dailuainne retreated into the shadows once again to focus on producing for Johnnie Walker, until 2015 when Diageo bottled a 34-year-old expression as part of its annual Special Release programme. This gentle and engaging Speyside whisky is always a crowd pleaser and is a perfect gateway to the whiskies of this popular region.