Miltonduff will be a new name to many readers and whilst its existence is noted by enthusiasts, even I had to recheck its date of inception. This distillery resides near Elgin within the Speyside region and has been in existence since 1824. Such a date means it’s one of the founding distilleries of this famous whisky region, which was legalised in 1823 with the approval of the Excise Act.
This legalisation and subsequent taxation was the catalyst for several distilleries to become accepted as legal endeavours, or the establishment of new sites with a view to produce whisky. For Miltonduff its location just a few miles from Elgin was already known for the quality of its barley and a nearby Abbey. However, it’s believed that an illicit farm distillery was already in existence prior to this using the said barley and the excellent water source known as the Black Burn. This farm distillery was called Milton and the local landowners of the time were the Duff family which is believed to be the inspiration for the new name as Miltonduff.
Andrew Peary and Robert Bain took the opportunity of the Excise Act to become legally accepted. Whilst it’s unclear as to the origins of the site prior to this acceptance and their activities, given the prevalence of illicit stills in the region, it seems highly likely that they were also engaged in this profitable pastime. It remained in their hands until 1866 when William Stuart purchases the distillery and he retains sole ownership until 1895 when Thomas Yool & Co takes a slice of the distilling business. Together they manage to keep Miltonduff afloat during the harsh economic and political conditions along with a fall in whisky demand at the turn of the century.
As we’ve seen across many distillery descriptions there is a move from the 1920’s onwards of ownership being condensed into larger companies who are intent on building a portfolio of several distilleries. Canadian firm Hiram Walker takes control in 1936 as part of their active recruitment drive into Scotch that commenced with the acquisition of George Ballantine & Son. If you take over a successful blending company with a range of blends then you will obviously require distilleries to ensure a continuous and reliable support of stock. This in part explains the arrival of 2 Lomond stills in 1964, which were the fashionable still of the period for those blenders seeking a flexibility in production by changing the characteristics of the new make spirit.
This style of spirit was called Mosstowie and as it was destined for blending, very little of it has reached the single malt market except in the form of independent bottlings from firms such as Signatory. It’s actually a very enjoyable Speyside single malt if you do have the opportunity to try it with lots of spicy notes that work well with the cask and extended periods of maturation. However, for the Lomond stills at Miltonduff these were removed in 1981, ending their unique spell of production and replaced with standard pot stills. This took the total number of stills on site to 6 thanks to an expansion of the distillery during the 1970’s and remains the number today. Miltonduff’s annual capacity nowadays is nearly 6 million litres and this goes mainly towards the Ballantine’s blend.
Allied Distillers takes over the distillery in 1986 and just a couple of years later in 1991 decide to give the distillery a single malt release alongside other relatively unknown distilleries before releasing a specific 12-year-old expression. Then in 2005, Pernod Ricard takes control and Miltonduff remains within its Chivas Brothers group today. Since then Miltonduff has retreated from the single malt spotlight and concentrated on its blending duties although Chivas did release a 15-year-old as part of its Cask Strength range available at distilleries such as Aberlour and Strathisla.
Miltonduff has changed style over the years having originally practiced triple distillation until the modern era. It offers an engaging Speyside style whisky with a mixture of fruity sweetness and a touch of smoke and spices such as vanilla and cinnamon. A very enjoyable and pleasing style of whisky that is widely bottled by the independents and yet remains relatively unknown even to this day.