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The Lost Distillery Company is a subsidiary of Crucial Drinks, founded by former Diageo employees Scott Watson and Brian Woods in 2013. Their aim is to explore and celebrate the dozens of Scottish distilleries that have gone out of business at various times during the last century.
Working closely with Professor Michael Moss of Glasgow University and his team of archivists, they are able to create modern interpretations of the spirit once produced by stills now lost to the mists of time.
By scouring historical documents, tax records and contemporaneous accounts, they are able to build up a detailed picture of each distillery, taking everything into account from water source to still shape and the casks used for maturation. Once this profile has been created, their whisky-making team brings the spirit to life by blending malts sourced from current distilleries.
The re-creation of spirit few, if any, alive today have tasted is a fascinating concept, though the accuracy of any such endeavour can’t really be judged for obvious reasons. Better then to view this range simply as malts inspired by distilleries of old and judge each by the quality of the liquid in the bottle.
*Full disclosure: I was sent samples of Lost Distillery Company products so that I might share my thoughts with you, my readers. As always, I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Auchnagie “Classic Selection”
Auchnagie was one of many small farm distilleries situated at Ballinluig in the early 19th century. Little is known of its origins other than it was founded in 1812 and was under the ownership of a man named James Duff by 1827.
“The water used comes from the Auchnagie Hills, and the make is Highland Malt. Only peats brought from Loch Broom are used in drying the malt.” Whilst touring the country in research of his book ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’ Alfred Barnard visited in 1886. He found the distillery silent thanks to unusually hot weather that made malting impossible.
Within a few short years of Barnard’s visit Auchnagie had been sold to John Dewar & Son’s who prized the spirit as a core ingredient of their blends. However, when Tommy Dewar oversaw the construction of Aberfeldy distillery in 1896, Auchnagie slipped down the list of priorities and was eventually deemed surplus to requirements and closed in 1912.
Little of the distillery proper remains today, though the reservoir from which it drew water can still be seen.
The Auchnagie Classic Selection is bottled at 43% and retails at £40.
Smell: Light, delicate nose. Fruity and floral. Pear. Crisp green apples. Peach. Lemon. Honey. Barley extract. Marzipan. Madeira cake.
Taste: Orange. Heather honey. Caramel. Apple juice. Peppery oak. Baking spices and sponge cake.
Value for Money: At £40 a bottle the Classic Selection range is placed towards the higher end of what could be considered “entry level” but balances the cost with well put together blends that offer rewarding complexity.
Delicate but also retains a fullness of flavour. Is it a close approximation of the original Auchnagie spirit? No idea – but it’s a tasty wee dram and that’s far more important.
Stratheden “Classic Selection”
Stratheden began life as Auchtermuchty distillery in the heart of the village that shared its name. The distillery and adjoining maltings was founded by Alexander Bonthrone, who’s family had been malting and brewing in the area since at least the 1600’s. Despite previous dalliances with distilling, Auchtermuchty was the family’s first officially licensed premises, opened in 1829 after two years of laborious blasting at the rock face that lined the local stream.
Alexander ran the distillery until his death in 1890 at the ripe old age of 92. Following his passing the business was inherited by his sons John and William who’s dislike for one another saw John mostly withdraw from the operation and leave the day to day running to his brother. John passed away in 1901 whilst William carried on until 1919, after which the distillery passed to his sons Alexander and George who struggled to make a go of it in the post-war years.
Quite what caused the distillery’s end is unknown, though in all likelihood it was the same combination that finished many other businesses at the time. The early 20th century brought massive industry downturn often referred to as the Pattison crash. This was followed by the outbreak of War in 1914, Prohibition in the US in 1920 and the Great Depression in 1929.
At some point in its near 100 year life Auchtermuchty was renamed Stratheden but the plant closed in 1926, one of the few distilleries to be owned and run by one family for the entire duration of its existence. Its remains can still be seen today and in 1992 the malt barn and kiln were declared listed buildings.
The Stratheden Classic Selection is bottled at 43% and retails around £40.
Smell: Apple, pear and light peat smoke. Biscuit. Malt. Lemon curd. Lime. Pineapple. Jalapeno. White pepper.
Taste: Soft smoke. Pepper. Oak. Sea salt. Apple skin. Pear and pineapple. Grapefruit. Honey. Dark chocolate. Lime.
Value for Money: As per previous dram… the classic selection Stratheden will set you back around £40 a bottle. Not quite bargain basement but within the price range of most whisky drinkers.
An interesting and rather old-fashioned whisky. The light fresh fruit and subtle smoke combination is fascinating and unlike most of what you’ll find on today’s market. Of course, whether Stratheden genuinely tasted like this I’ve no idea, but it still feels a lot like sipping on the whisky of yesteryear. An enjoyable and unusual dram.
*You can buy the whiskies reviewed in this article from Master of Malt.
Buy Stratheden here
Buy Auchnagie here
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Visit the Lost Distillery Company website here.