Travelling to Keith you’ll suddenly pass by an intriguing distillery perched alongside this minor road that quickly flashes by. A small sign may confirm its identify, but like the whisky itself, Glentauchers remains relatively unknown to the majority of whisky drinkers. Established on Tauchers farm in 1897, the site offered both road and rail access that were vital components of any distillery during these boom times prior to the Pattison crisis towards the end of the century. Glentauchers may not carry the stalwart name of Charles Doig as its architect, instead its local designer John Alcock, but Doig did help supervise the build given his widespread experience. Completed the following year, spirit began flowing shortly afterwards and the financial constraints of other distilleries post-Pattison did not trouble the backers of Glentauchers.
The sizeable presence of James Buchanan was behind this new distillery, eager to acquire stock for his popular stable of blends that included Buchanan and the widely visible Black & White. Also involved in the project were the Glasgow blending firm W.P. Lowrie who were closely associated with the upstart Buchanan and shared blending facilities in Glasgow. Eventually powered by his popular whiskies, James was in a position of strength to purchase a controlling interest in the Lowrie firm and therefore became owner of Glentauchers and several other distilleries in 1906. The Pattison crash propelled Buchanan to the forefront of industry leadership, as he argued for improvements to distillation and he was called upon by the banks to value the remaining stocks of Pattison whisky.
Eventually the good times come to an end and with ill-health, Buchanan merged with another blending giant in the form of John Dewar in 1915. This new company would eventually become a part of the giant Distillers Company Limited a decade later, as James sought retirement. Just prior to this, the distillery experimented with continuous distillation of malt whisky, now known as grain whisky and a similar approach was attempted at its sister Convalmore distillery. Both owned by the same parent company, the attempt was to produce whisky on a more rapid, industrial scale, but it was deemed of insufficient quality and thus the experiment came to an end.
During the 1920’s Glentachers was remodelled to meet rising demand for blends with the mashing and maltings builds the main focus. Electricity finally arrived at the site in 1958 with the steam engine that had existed for decades being retired. Then in the 1960’s as another whisky boom took hold across the industry, several distilleries were expanded or even bulldozed and rebuilt to meet this rising tide of demand. For Glentauchers the number of stills was expanded from a single pair to today’s trio that account for around 4 million litres annually. This accounts for the old stone built buildings that sit beside the passing road, but behind these almost hidden from view sit the handprint of a more modern efficient design. The maltings were closed towards the end of the 1960’s and Glentauchers remained a faithful component of many blends until the mid-1980’s when faced with a drop in global demand, the distillery was mothballed. In 1989, the distillery was purchased by a subsidiary firm of Allied Distillers who revive Glentauchers in 1992, before it was acquired by today’s owners in the form of Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard).
Even now Glentauchers keeps working away supporting the Chivas blends and other releases. An official single malt presence is almost non-existent, in previous times former owners have dabbled with the odd release here and there with Allied taking the plunge at the turn of the millennium. The most commonly sighted bottle from Glentauchers will be one of the distinctly labelled Gordon & MacPhail bottlings. Thankfully the distillery does enjoy widespread support from the independent sector that accounts for its cult status. A Glentauchers whisky is refined, elegant and immediately approachable with hidden layers of depth. Whether its fruit laced with cream or exotic spices, followed by a citrus twist; Glentachers always entertains and delivers.