Strathisla is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, founded in 1786 on the banks of the River Isla by George Taylor. Originally known as Milltown Distillery it was later changed to Milton, though the spirit was often referred to, even at that time as Strathisla.
In 1830, the distillery was acquired by William Longmore, a banker and grain merchant of some repute. Under his guidance, and later, that of his son-in-law J. Geddes Brown, the distillery met with considerable success. By the 1880’s the whisky of Milton was being distributed by Sir Robert Burnett & Company of London as ‘Longmore’s Strathisla’, prompting the Moray & Nairn Express to write in 1885:
“Wherever one travels one finds that those who know what good whisky is speak in the most glowing and appreciative terms of the produce of Milton Distillery in Keith.”
By the 1940’s, Longmore & Co. had come to be controlled by Jay Pomeroy, a London Financier who used all his skills and expertise to acquire a majority share in the distillery. He immediately severed ties with local businesses and began shipping vast quantities of liquid to London.
Upset by the loss of their favourite spirit, the locals brought the matter to the attention of the inland revenue who began an investigation into Pomeroy’s business affairs. It turned out he had been selling the spirit on the black market and in 1949, he was prosecuted for avoiding tax returns and fined £111,038. Longmore & Co was wound up and Milton Distillery acquired by James Barclay. He immediately passed it on to the Seagram Company who renamed it Strathisla.
Today, the distillery comes under Pernod Ricard’s Chivas stable with only a 12 year old bottling of its single malt widely available. Fortunately however, the spirit occasionally appears as a single cask release from an independent bottler. Here, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society offer up a 12 year old version, matured in a second fill chenin-blanc barrique, botted at 59.10%.
SMWS members can buy Cask No. 58.31 ‘Berried alive’ here.
*Full Disclosure: As an affiliate of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I can be paid commission should any of my readers choose to become members or buy bottles that I have reviewed. I was sent this sample so that I could share my thoughts with my readers and will as always, strive to remain as impartial as possible in my review.
Smell: Vanilla and honeycomb. Strawberry, raspberry and lemon. Ginger biscuits. Freshly squeezed orange juice.
Taste: Honey and baking spices. Ginger. Caramel and toffee apples. Fruit chews. Orange marmalade on toast.
Value for Money: Perhaps a little on the steep side at £60. By no means a bad dram but lacks that little something that elevates a whisky to superior status.
Score: 40.5 / 50
An interesting combination of summer fruits and winter spices that will intrigue if not amaze. Short of greatness but a decent buy and an interesting spin on a single malt we see far too little of.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a unique members only whisky club which releases an array of new single cask bottlings each month. Members not only gain access to this monthly out-turn, but also to the purpose built members rooms in Society venues in Edinburgh and London.
For more information on joining the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, click here.
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