Caperdonich was founded in 1897 in the midst of a whisky boom driven by sales of blended scotches which unfortunately came crashing to a halt just a couple of years later with the Pattison Crash, the effects of which reverberated across the industry for years to come.
It was one of several distilleries established on Speyside to take advantage of the abundant resources locally for making whisky and the ease of transportation south. These included distilleries that survive to this day such as Knockando, Longmorn, Glentauchers and Glen Moray. Caperdonich in comparison, was initially known as Glen Grant #2 given its close proximity to the existing distillery and closed its doors in 1902 due to the Pattison crisis.
Famously there was a pipe between both distilleries that allowed the new make spirit produced at Caperdonich, to be transported over to the Glen Grant filling station to be placed into casks. Although that’s the romantic rumour regarding this infamous pipe, as its actually more likely to be waste product as a result of distillation that was piped away. The distillery was pretty much closed only after a couple of years of operation and remained mothballed until 1965. In-between many of its internal distillation parts were used as spares to support Glen Grant that remained in operation.
The distillery was partially rebuilt by Glenlivet Distillers Limited in 1965 and they decided quite rightly, that Glen Grant #2 wasn’t a worthwhile name for a distillery. It was changed to Caperdonich paying homage to the water source used by both distilleries and this translates as the secret well. Just a couple of years later they doubled the number of stills to 4, which remained the final number until its closure in 2003. Due to its extensive refit in the 1960’s it was one of the more modern and efficient distilleries on Speyside at the time. Only a limited number of staff were required to run the distillery and this economic viability ensured that it remained open for longer than just a couple of years.
In 2001 the distillery was sold to Pernod Ricard, whom facing a decline in demand for whisky worldwide, decided to close several of its distillers at the time including Glen Keith, BenRiach and Braeval in 2002. Caperdonich was closed the following year and thus began the speculation as to its fate over the subsequent years, including the hope that the distillery could be resurrected. Unfortunately, internally it was used again for spare parts before being sold in 2010 to local company Forsyth’s of Rothes who are famous for making the stills that form the heart of many distilleries across Scotland. As they were neighbours to the distillery, the land would be utilised to meet their growing book for coppersmith work. Caperdonich was demolished shortly afterwards and its short period of production during an extended lifecycle came crashing to an end. The Caperdonich stills remain in use today, with a duo being sold to the Belgium Owl distillery and the other 2 were purchased by the proposed Falkirk distillery.
Thankfully whilst Caperdonich did not enjoy an official single malt presence, primarily going towards the blended market, a couple of rare official bottlings do exist. However, it’s more likely that you will be able to find releases from the independent bottlers, many of whom have bottled the distillery on a regular basis and continue to do so. Caperdonich is one of these closed distilleries that only now that it’s gone, do we begin to form an appreciation for its wares thanks to extended periods of maturation.
The 1960’s and early 1970’s Caperdonich whiskies represent a classic example of the Speyside fruity character, while more recent bottlings display a lightness and elegant depth with oranges, honey and mint characteristics followed by a malty taste and a peppery finish. For a short period in the late 1990’s the distillery produced a peated spirit that was released independently once, so potentially more of this rare Caperdonich variant is sitting in casks somewhere and as time passes by, Caperdonich becomes increasingly rare and sought after.