Dalwhinnie distillery information

The Dalwhinnie distillery started under the name Strathspey when it was founded in 1897 by a consortium of John Grant, Alex Mackenzie (who designed the distillery) and George Sellar, using the name Strathspey Distillery Co. Ltd. The location, close to the geographical centre of the Highlands was picked for its water supply; Lochan an Doire Uaine (which roughly translates into “Loch of the green thicket”), and an abundance of peat in the nearby moors. It’s a remote site, high up in the Drumochter Hills, yet it was accessible due to the nearby Great North Road (connecting the Speyside to the Lowlands in the South), meeting a west-bound road, as well as the availability of a railway.

Production commenced in 1898, but the young company soon found itself in financial trouble and went into voluntary liquidation. AP Blyth purchased the distillery, renaming it Dalwhinnie (which translates into “The meeting place”). Famous distillery architect Charles Doig was hired to improve the distillery, and in 1905, it was sold on an auction with American distillers Cook & Bernbeimer making the highest bid (paying only 1,250 British Pounds).  When the prohibition started in the United States, in 1919 Cook & Bernbeimer sold the distillery to Macdonald Greenlees; blenders from Leith.

Macdonald Greenless was absorbed by The Distillers Company (DCL) in 1926, and Dalwhinnie was transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD) in 1930. A fire destroyed large parts of the distillery in February 1934. The same year, electricity finally was brought to the remote village of Dalwhinnie, which until then had to rely on parafin lamps for lighting. Reconstruction lasted until 1938, when the stills once again were fired up. World War 2 led to restricted availability of barley, with Dalwhinnie closing until the war was over.

In 1961, the stills are converted to steam heating (using a coal boiler), and in 1968 the malting floors are closed. In 1972, the coal boiler is replaced with an oil boiler. 1979 sees the malt barns converted into warehouses, and the closure of the private railway. In 1986, the distillery is completely refurbished, with the worm tubs replaced with shell- and tube condensers (previously used at the Bannf distillery). Around 1988, United Distillers (successors to SMD) pick Dalwhinnie as the Highland style representation in their Classic Malts series (Along with Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker), putting the brand on the map as a single malt. Until then, most of the whisky produced found its way into blends, particularly Buchanan. The increased attention leads to a visitor centre opening in 1992.

Another reconstruction followed between 1992 and 1995, with the distillery closing during that period. At the end of the reconstruction, the worm tubs were back, as the switch to the condensers had too great of an affect on the end product.

Dalwhinnie used to be the highest distillery in Scotland, sitting at about 352m above sea-level. It now has to share that title with Braeval since that opened in the 1970s, as Braeval is placed at roughly 355 meters. Dalwhinnie, however, can claim to be located in the coldest spot in Scotland. The distillery is also home to a meteorological weather station, where daily readings are collected.

Dalwhinnie whisky

Since it’s introduction to the Classic Malts, several expressions of Dalwhinnie have been released:

  • Special Releases; 36 Years Old (released in 2002)
  • Special Releases; 29 Years Old (released in 2003)
  • Special Released; 20 Years Old (released in 2006)
  • 15 Year Old
  • Distillers Edition; finished in Oloroso Sherry casks

Distillery info:

Water sourceLochan an Doire Uaine
Owned byDiageo

Dalwhinnie Distillery
Inverness-shire PH19 1AB
United Kingdom

+44 (0) 1540 672219

Visitor centreYes
CommunityFriends of Classic Malts

Distillery Setup:

Mash tun7.3 tonnes1 (Full lauter
Washback32,000 litres6 (1 Oregon pine, 5 Siberian Larch)
Wash still17,500 litres1
Spirit Still16,200 litres1
Expected yearly output in LPA (Litres of pure alcohol)1,300,000