Dram Initiative #23 – Silent Stills: Closed Distilleries
July 18th, 2015
Wow. Eighteen bottles from nine closed distilleries, seventy-six necro-drinkers, six hundred eighty four Glencairn glasses and plenty of Irish insight. All this assembled for one purpose: to drink what was and is no more. If you were lucky enough to be in attendance you can say you drank liquid history.
The evening’s tasting was held in the upper whisky hall of the Marda Loop Community Centre. On tap for the event were whiskies from Banff, Dallas Dhu, Rosebank, Glen Mhor, Pittyvaich, Littlemill, St. Magdalene, Brora and Port Ellen. All these distilleries had one thing in common; they lacked a safe word from their directors or a savior like Jim Murray.
Calgarians weren’t exclusive to this event. Like the biblical plagues of old, swarms of unwashed clockwork orange Edmontonian Droogs rode the QE2 Highway from hell into Calgary prior to the tasting. They came at us from the high Northlands, near the Arctic Circle, fixed on the idea of corrupting our innocence and consuming all the whisky in Calgary. It has been said that they hate us cause they ain’t us. Regardless, we Calgarians showed them grace, tolerance and compassion in allowing them to join our tasting … although I am very glad we had security at the door.
Also in attendance was Andrew Ferguson, better known as the legend of Kensington Wine Market; Dave Breakenridge, Associate News Editor of the upscale & prominent sunshine girl newspaper; along with Rob & Kelly Carpenter, the founders of the Scotch Malt Whisky Association Canada, an association that promotes single cask AGE STATED whiskey and other alcoholic beverages less important than whisky.
Our spirit guide and orator for the evening was none other than the Dram’s own president and whisky dominatrix, Curt Robinson. With a slide show and carefully scripted address, Curt whipped open the doors to each of these long scuttled distilleries just long enough to give us a peek at the rich history which once existed.
It would be fair to say that all the malts were enjoyed, save one sherry bomb, and a few, like the Banff, Brora and Port Ellen, stood out. Detailed tasting notes will follow once Curt has had time to imbibe the samples saved. All the whiskies presented carried an AGE STATEMENT with an average age around 24 years. The fading echo of these nine single malts was consumed in the following order:
1) Rosebank 12 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Refill Hogshead Ref #1564
March 1993 – June 2005 50% abv 332 Bottles
Born 1840 Final Production 1993 Property redeveloped 2002
2) Littlemill 21 y.o. (A.D. Rattray) Bourbon Hogshead Cask #560
April 4, 1991 – May 28, 2012 50.6% abv 290 Bottles
Born 1772* Final Production 1994 Destroyed by fire 2004
(*Bushmills was founded in 1608)
3) Saint Magdalene / Linlithgow 24 y.o. (Murray McDavid Mission Gold) Bourbon, Port Finish
1982 – 2006 58.3% abv 446 Bottles
Born 1798 Final Production 1983 Property redeveloped
4) Pittyvaich 15 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Refill Hogshead Ref #2390
October 1990 – January 2006 50% abv 340 Bottles
Born 1974 Final Production 1993 Demolished 2002
5) Banff 32 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Refill Hogshead Ref# 3521
March 1974 – April 2007 47.8% abv 272 Bottles
Born 1863 Final Production 1983 Destroyed by fire 1991
6) Dallas Dhu 32 y.o. (Gordon & MacPhail)
1979 – 2012 43% abv
Born 1898 Final Production 1983 License to distill withdrawn 1992 Turned into a museum
7) Glen Mhor 27 y.o. (The Cooper’s Choice) Hogshead Cask#1350
1982 – 2009 46% abv 345 Bottles
Born 1894 Final Production 1983 Demolished 1986
8) Brora 25 y.o. (Diageo)
2008 56.3% 3,000 Bottles
Born 1819 Final Production 1983 Dismantled
9) Port Ellen 25 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Sherry Cask #4176 KWM
February 1983 – July 2008 54.7% abv 210 Bottles
Born 1825 Final Production 1983 Converted into a malting facility
Sadly these distilleries were all victims of over production during the seventies and eighties leaving Scotland drowning in excess production. Unfortunately, single malts weren’t as popular as they are today resulting in most of the stock being put into blends with little left over for today’s single malt drinker.
To heighten the evening’s drinking pleasure the Closed Distilleries whiskies were enjoyed with the Closed Distilleries soundtrack which included such songs as, CLOSING Time – Semisonic / CLOSE To You – The Carpenters / CLOSER To The Heart – Rush / Don’t Stand So CLOSE To Me – The Police / CLOSER – Nine Inch Nails / CLOSE To You – New Kids On The Block / CLOSER – Kings Of Leon / Get CLOSER – Linda Ronstadt / So CLOSE – Matthew Good. The soundtrack was available for purchase in the lobby after the event.
As a ‘thank you’ to committee members and volunteers who stayed behind to help clean up after the liquidated whisky jamboree, a bottle of Japanese whisky from the closed Hanyu distillery, SMWS 131.2 with the AGE clearly STATED at 13 years old, was swigged, glugged and knocked back, leaving only the green Irish skeleton of a once desired outturned bottle and the unchaste cleaners wanting more.
Shout out to Curt for countless hours dedicated to researching, coordinating and speaking to this tasting. Stephen King couldn’t have done a better job speaking on behalf of these dead distilleries, many thanks!
Also, cheers to the Dram’s full patch and prospect committee members for the hard work in making this tasting happen. Although this was probably our most ambitious event to date it was just another in a line of award winning tastings with more to come. All Dram tasting events are intended to help raise awareness of how good AGE STATED whiskies can be.
Final thoughts and some closing words ………… Let’s hope that the producers of whisky learn from history, so that future whisky drinkers aren’t as lucky as we were.
Your Humble Drudge,
– Photos: Pat Carroll
For this one, I was with you in spirit, Curt. Sounds like an epic event.
“Final thoughts and some closing words ………… Let’s hope that the producers of whisky learn from history, so that future whisky drinkers aren’t as lucky as we were.”
If distillers learn from this story, it will be mean that future drinkers ARE lucky. Instead of a select few tasting overly expensive rare stuff none of the rest of us can hope to try, it will be available for all.
Ain’t that a kick in the head? I don’t doubt that there’ll be a great “evening” in the future; I just hope that it won’t mean that we’ll all have equal access to mediocre whisky. But cheers anyway – it’s a good point, well made!
And great write up, MM – let’s please see another one of those moose profiles. Are there any who are French and have a career in advertising – or who have worked with someone who is French and has a career in advertising?
Really was a great tasting. Cudos to Curt and Malt Monster. Was really pleased to get to resist our KWM Port Ellen cask and that closed Japanese whisky SMWS bottling. Slainté!