Malt of the Moment
For many years Edradour claimed to be Scotland’s smallest distillery but given the recent upturn in new arrivals it’s now adopted a new mantra as Scotland’s little gem. It’s still...
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For many years Edradour claimed to be Scotland’s smallest distillery but given the recent upturn in new arrivals it’s now adopted a new mantra as Scotland’s little gem. It’s still a relatively small producer compared to distilleries across the country, averaging only around 130,000 litres annually. Vying for the title of smallest now is Strathearn or Dornoch, who both operate on a much smaller scale. At least Edradour is left with its history and postcard looks that few others can match.
The distillery claims to have been established in 1825, when Alexander Forbes applies for a license to distil alcohol and is granted permission. Even back in the 1800’s this region and Edradour were noted for their beauty and the land was owned by the Duke of Atholl. In reality the distillery that we know today wasn’t built until 1837 and production commenced 2 years later. Prior to this, the region was rampant for illegal distilling and groups of farmers using their barley to produce whisky. What is more likely is that the practice of distilling did take place on the site given its hidden nature and presence of the Edradour burn that flows alongside the distillery.
A handful of owners owned Edradour until the arrival of William Whiteley and Co. acquires the distillery in 1933 for a bargain price from the Duke who was experiencing financial problems. Whiteley was looking ahead as Prohibition was coming to an end in America and demand for whisky would be on the increase. He was already a fan of the distillery having bought several casks previously to help support his range of blended whiskies including the most famous as the King’s Ransom bottling. Or should that be infamous? Full of marketing bravado and claims, King’s Ransom was one of the most flamboyant, as if you believe the literature being used as ballast on ocean going liners to marry the spirit. Another of Whiteley’s blends was the House of Lords even though he used the name without their permission and thus the blend could not be sold in the United Kingdom.
Old age caught up with Whiteley who then sold his shareholding company and therefore control of Edradour to Irving Haim. We now know that Haim had connections to the Mafia and it was suspected that money from their illegal activities was used to purchase Whiteley’s company. King’s Ransom hit the headlines in 1939 as part of the cargo on the SS Politician that ran aground off the coast of Scotland prompting the tale of Whisky Galore. Thankfully this colourful period of Edradour’s history came to an end in 1982 when the distillery was acquired by Pernod Ricard who saw value in its location and appearance by opening a visitor centre.
Then in 1986 Edradour debuted as a single malt whisky, thereby beginning the voyage of establishing itself as a single component than a blending provider. However, it never really sat well within the Pernod Ricard stable being such a relatively tiny producer. In 2002, the distillery was sold to Andrew Symington who had established the successful independent bottler Signatory in the 1980’s. The business had gone from strength to strength and having a distillery of its own seemed like the next logical step. Edradour also offered the opportunity to mature the enviable range of Signatory casks onsite and keep production going without being a huge drain on financial resources. It seems for an independent bottler, Eradour is the ideal size and if you visit the distillery today you’ll see the huge range of Signatory bottlings in the shop alongside the official Edradour releases.
The tour is well worth experiencing as it allows you to see how such a small distillery operates and offers a glimpse of the past including a century old worm tub. Expansion isn’t possible at Edradour as this would spoil the beauty of the site, but there are plans to build what is effectively an Edradour 2 nearby. The real delight during the tour is walking into the large warehouse just over the glen that harbours not only Edradour but the Signatory stock from distilleries across Scotland.
Edradour’s single malt presence is never going to threaten the market due its small nature. Today, it offers a variety of casks types including wine and the recommended sherry butt releases. The Straight from the Cask range is bottled at cask strength and Ballechin is a peated whisky that accounts for 20% of annual production. Its reputation has grown since the variable days of the 1990’s, when you just didn’t know what an Edradour bottle contained and today offers a taste of a small distillery with plenty of character.