Malt of the Moment
Pittyvaich was a Speyside distillery situated on the edge of Dufftown in 1975. Founded by Arthur Bell & Sons simply to provide content for their extremely popular blended whiskies, little...
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Pittyvaich was a Speyside distillery situated on the edge of Dufftown in 1975. Founded by Arthur Bell & Sons simply to provide content for their extremely popular blended whiskies, little thought was given to its aesthetics as this was an era of rapid expansion and distilleries being constructed with modern materials and industrial designs. The same it could be argued applied to the whisky created within this building.
The distillery stood amongst a labyrinth of warehousing on the edge of Scotland’s most famous whisky town. It was little more than an industrial unit a short walk from Dufftown distillery and Mortlach. Whilst these have survived, a recent visit to Pittyvaich highlighted an open patch of ground amongst the Diageo warehouses. It’s here the distillery once stood and ironically every last trace of it has been removed from the site.
The 1920’s in the whisky industry were a period of consolidation as companies grew in size by taking over their rivals. This took place again during the 1980’s following a fall in demand for whisky and overproduction. The Bell’s company was purchased by Guinness in 1985, before they moved onto the Distillers Company Limited and then a revaluation of its now considerable whisky assets. Pittyvaich with no single malt presence and its existence only to provide blended content, could be easily replaced by other distilleries within the group. Similarly. blended recipes were becoming more grain dependent as the ratio flipped from malt to its cheaper counterpart. Combined with a lapse in demand, meant that the distillery was closed in 1993 having only been open for 18 years. Funnily, a suitability attempt for producing gin was carried out in 1994 on site, but this was not taken up and Pittyvaich remained closed. In 2002, the demolition team moved in and what was left of Pittyvaich remains the patch of open land you can see during Dufftown’s excellent whisky walking tours.
Whilst it existed, Pittyvaich with its 4 stills worked flat out, which might explain why bottlings now are more commonplace. This is partially due to the fascination and attraction of any closed distillery, but also the discovery of this overlooked malt. Unfortunately, the majority of Pittyvaich bottlings, which commenced with the Flora & Fauna entry in 1991, confirm the whisky struggles as a single malt. The Fauna range was created to highlight overlooked distilleries and the Pittyvaich 12-year-old is an inoffensive and restrained experience. Even drinking this during our visit to the site of the distillery did not really prompt much positivity from the group, who highlighted its engineered and industrial feel alongside heavy use of artificial colouring.
Since this debut, Diageo has tried to showcase Pittyvaich on several occasions via limited releases including its Special Release programme. Given that these are widely available suggests a failure once again and arguably that Pittyvaich either needs more time or was best hidden within a blended scotch whisky. The releases that have hinted at its potential come from the independent sector, although these have dried up in recent times. It’s a fair assumption that within the Diageo inventory and independent warehouses, there will be enough Pittyvaich for further releases so perhaps time will be kind and we can rediscover this distillery.
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