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The Story of Adelphi
Adelphi is an independent bottling company and distiller that began life in the city of Glasgow in 1826. The original distillery was founded by Charles and David Gray on the banks of the River Clyde and became one of the most successful distilleries in the city until the industry downturn of the early 20th century brought an abrupt end to production. The buildings remained in place until the late 1960s before the site was completely demolished, clearing the land that would eventually house the Glasgow Central Mosque.
In 1993 the company name was revived by Jamie Walker, great-grandson of Archibald Walker who owned the distillery between 1880 and 1902. Jamie relaunched as an independent bottler, seeking out exceptional casks of single malt whisky from all over Scotland and bottling them in their most natural state. In 2003 he sold a cask to Keith Falconer and Donald Houston, who were so satisfied with its contents they decided to buy the company.
The new owners dreamed of returning the business to its distilling roots and in 2012, planning permission was granted for a site in Glenbeg on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Building work began in 2013 and the first spirit ran from the stills 12 months later. Bottles of Ardnamurchan spirit have since been released on an annual basis, each showing the liquid to be progressing well as it matures but as yet, there is no official whisky on the market.
Fortunately, the independent bottling arm of Adelphi remains in full flow and having encountered them at a few festivals this year I can happily confirm that the quality is as good as ever. At the Whisky Social in Falkirk in August, their selection vastly outshone anything that anyone else was able to offer and at the end of the event I took home a bottle of 13 year old single malt produced at Benrinnes distillery in Speyside, bottled at a reassuringly strong 55.5%.
By sheer coincidence, Benrinnes was originally founded in 1826, the same year the Adelphi distillery was being constructed some 180 miles away, in Glasgow. The first distillery lasted only a few years however, before it was completely destroyed in the Great Moray Floods of 1829, only to be rebuilt in 1835 by a man named John Innes.
Innes named his distillery after Ben Rinnes, the 840 metre hill that dominates the area. From its summit can be seen eight of the surrounding counties from Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Moray and Nairnshire to Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness.
On the 14th of November 1943, the North Face of the hill was the scene of a terrible accident when the Wellington Bomber HF746 of No20 Operational Training Unit, based out of Lossiemouth crashed in a snowstorm, killing all five crew on board. Such was the impact of the crash, a ghostly scar in the shape of a plane can still be seen on the hillside to this day.
The Benrinnes distillery meanwhile has since come to rest under the ownership of Diageo and spends much of its time producing malt for use in the company’s blends. To date the only official bottling is a 15 year old, released as part of the Flora & Fauna range. This 13 year old expression from Adelphi however, came from a single first fill Oloroso hogshead and retailed for around £80 a bottle.
Smell: Woody. Varnish. Berries and sticky treacle. Cherry. Raisins. Prunes. Grape juice. Old leather.
Taste: Oak and maple syrup. Caramel and sticky toffee pudding. Allspice. Cherry and dark chocolate.
Thoughts: It’s not a cheap dram by any means but it is no understatement to say that this is one of the best sherry matured whiskies I have come across in years. Adelphi do the sherry cask thing very well but when you get a spirit as well suited to this style as Benrinnes, you can really create something special.
It started well enough but as the fill level lowered and the liquid inside was exposed to greater amounts of oxygen, the dram got better and better, revealing more and more juicy fruit and sherry notes to compliment the leathery oak as time went by. It’s really magnificent stuff and the prospect of emptying the bottle has begun to fill me with dread.
This bottle came very close to being my pick for New Year Dram 2019 and was the forerunner until a rival came on the scene at the 2019 edition of Glasgow’s Whisky Festival earlier this month. That however, is a story for another blog…
Visit Adelphi here.
Visit Benrinnes here.