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Dalwhinnie distillery was founded in 1898 by John Grant of Grantown-on-Spey with George Sellar and Alexander Mackenzie, both from nearby Kingussie. They enlisted the renowned distillery architect Charles Doig to design the facility and invested around £10,000 of their own money. Together, they succeeded in getting the project off the ground but their venture was in liquidation within the year.
The decades that followed saw the distillery bounce from one owner to the next before eventually finding a permanent home at DCL (later Diageo) where it was chosen to represent the “central highlands” in the Classic Malts range.
Dalwhinnie stands 1164 feet above sea level, giving it a claim to being the highest distillery in Scotland. Its elevation also leaves the distillery somewhat at the mercy of some very temperamental weather condition but compensation comes in the form of the spectacular scenery. Something I was able to see for myself during a recent visit.
I arrived at Dalwhinnie in late June having long admired the distillery in passing. A closer look. confirmed my initial impression that this is a fine-looking distillery, that must surely rank as one of the most attractive in the Highlands. Its attractive whitewashed buildings are crowned by twin magnificent pagodas and it sits in a wild and rugged landscape.
*Alas, photos were not allowed inside the distillery so all shots are external or inside the visitor centre.
Our guide, Davy, offered a warm welcome and gave us an informative and entertaining tour of the distillery. Afterwards, he led us back to the visitor centre where we were greeted by an enticing lineup of six drams, each one paired with a beautifully crafted chocolate from Iain Burnett. There were samples of Dalwhinnie’s 15-year-old, of the Distillers Edition, the Winter’s Gold, the Distillery Only, and a 21-year-old, as well as a wonderful single cask that had apparently never been bottled for sale. I was quite impressed with the whole selection but decided to take home a bottle of the standard 15-year-old.
Smell: Heather honey & vanilla cream with apples and pears, almonds and a faint hint of smoke.
Taste: Toffee and malt, caramel and chocolate and a touch of oaky spice. Again, the softest hint of peat.
Thoughts: There’s nothing particularly fancy about Dalwhinnie’s single malt. It’s just a solid, dependable dram. Wormtub condensers add body to the spirit which makes the experience all the more satisfying and 15 years worth of maturation has given it plenty of time to interact with the oak. The bottle cost me £40 which isn’t a lot to pay given its age. I’ve also found Dalwhinnie to be one of the best malts to put in a hot toddy, should you ever find yourself in need of one!
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.