The majority of new distilleries after World War 2 were constructed in the 1960’s along with a series of expansions occurring across established names. An exception to this rule is Mannochmore that was constructed by the Distillers Company Limited who were a forerunner to the Diageo we know today.
The site near Elgin was already occupied by Glenlossie (since 1876) and the new arrival fitted alongside reviving the tradition of 2 distilleries within a single location. However legal changes meant that the former practice of naming a second facility as Glenlossie #2 was no longer permitted as seen with the reopening of Caperdonich, which was formerly known as Glen Grant #2. The that name was selected comes from the Mannoch Hill that dominates the region and provides the water source for distilling.
The distillery itself is very much a blend workhorse for Diageo and provides content for its masters. Existing on what nowadays is an extremely large distillery site; Mannochmore is almost hidden from view within the complex of warehouses and the Victorian appearance of Glenlossie providing a distinct contrast to its modern neighbour. The site is unsurprisingly a convenient warehousing option for Diageo’s numerous distilleries within the region and currently accommodates 14 that can accommodate around 250,000 casks.
The downturn of the 1980’s prompted Mannochmore to be mothballed in 1985 only to reopen once again in 1989. Given the proximity to Glenlossie, staff for a while used to alternate between both distilleries especially when Glenlossie was closed for refurbishment in the early 1990’s. This arrangement continued until the turn of the millennium when demand for whisky meant that separate distillery teams were established. It took until 1992 for Mannochmore to make its debut as a single malt thanks to the Flora & Fauna series that specifically showcased distilleries for overlooked or rarely seen producers. The resulting whisky is an interesting mixture of floral and fresh linen notes with a dry finish that can be viewed as an example of a light and engaging Speyside style. This 12-year-old is still readily available and is the most common official bottling even today.
Arguably Mannochmore is more known producing Loch Dhu which debuted in 1996 and caused such a commotion that its legend still persists to this day. Distilled in 1986, this whisky matured in double charred casks was given the name which means black lake in Gaelic for good reason given its colour. Partially due to the charred casks plus a large quantity of artificial colouring was used to enhance its distinctive appearance. Its characteristics could not be any different from the Flora & Fauna release with dark ash-like flavours being quoted. However infamous, Loch Dhu did find some fans but the whisky itself was only produced for a couple of years, leaving this bottle of ill repute to fade into legend.
More limited official expressions followed in 2009 with an 18-year-old and in 2010 an 11-year-old entry in the Manager’s Choice range heralding from a sherry cask. Given the lack of prominence from Mannochmore both are still possible to track down including the 2016 Special Release which is a concoction of various cask types. This 25-year-old was limited to 3954 bottles and the oldest official bottling seen so far. The distillery does feature a decent level of support from the independent bottlers with Cadenheads releasing a 37-year-old in 2015.
Improvements were made to Mannochmore in 2013 with the installation of a Briggs full lauter mash tun on site. This 11-ton beast is even larger than the one fitted at Glen Keith distillery and these modern machines are visually impressive to behold. Its installation along with the doubling of the stills to 4 in total and an increase in the number of washback’s, has boosted annual production to a new level of 6 million litres per year. Despite this level of investment, Mannochmore seems content to continue its role of providing blend content to the Johnnie Walker range and thankfully so if we can avoid another Loch Dhu release.