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The Lost Distillery Company aspire to create modern interpretations of the whisky once produced at long lost distilleries. Using a team of archivist’s they scour historical documents, tax records and photographs in order to build up a profile of each distillery. Everything is taken into account including the water used, the yeast, the size and shape of pot stills and the cask types in circulation at the time. Once this jigsaw puzzle has been completed, the company’s whisky making team begin to source malt from current, active distilleries which they can then use to create a new whisky, in tribute to the spirit of yesteryear.
More than most, the Kintyre town of Campbeltown has seen distilleries come and go. Once nicknamed Spiritville, Whiskyopolis, or even the Whisky Capital of the World, Campbeltown has played host to 33 distilleries, with at least 24 in operation simultaneously during the industry’s Victorian peak.
When the Excise Act of 1823 made it affordable to legally produce whisky, the many illicit distillers operating in and around Campbeltown seized their opportunity, with nine new distilleries launching in the first two years and many more following. This new industry benefited massively from the town’s proximity to a coal mine, just four miles away and the excellent natural harbour of Campbeltown Loch was a bustling trading post on the route between mainland Scotland and North America.
By the turn of the century however, problems had begun to emerge… The Pattison Crash hindered lending confidence in the wider industry and forced closures brought on by the outbreak of War in 1914 caused further damage. Then came Prohibition and the Great Depression, bringing distillers across the country to their knees. The final nail in the coffin of Campbeltown’s whisky industry came in 1923, when the local coal mine ran dry and closed down. By the onset of the 1930’s, only two distilleries remained in production.
One of the many to close was Dalaruan. The distillery had been founded in 1824 by Charles Colvill who had been inspired by a night spent in the bed of another man (quiet at the back!). Rather than being a romantic encounter, the two men were forced to bunk up due to a room shortage on the Isle of Islay. The other, an excise officer, told Colvill of the vast sums of money to be made as a distiller so upon his return to Campbeltown he abandoned his career as a cartwright and established his Dalaruan distillery on Broad Street. Colvill’s distillery would run successfully for the best part of a century before being forced out of business in 1922, with the last of the ageing stocks auctioned off in 1925. Today the land upon which this malt whisky was produced accommodates a modern housing estate, with little trace of its distilling past remaining.
*Full disclosure: I was sent samples by the fine folks at the Lost Distillery Company in order that I might share my thoughts with you my readers. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial view on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
The Classic Selection Dalaruan is bottled at 43% and retails for around £36.
Smell: Sea salt & pepper. Brine. Soft, earthy smoke. Toffee. Honeycomb. Caramel. Oak. Then confectionery fruits – Lemon sherbet. Lovehearts! Apple juice.
Taste: Vanilla & toffee. Caramel too. Sea salt and black pepper. Boiled sweets. Apple. Dry oak and wispy smoke.
Value for Money: I’ve been slowly working my way through a parcel of samples I was sent by the Lost Distillery Company and thus far I’ve been quite impressed with their Classic Selection. The Dalaruan in particular offers a well crafted balance between those light fruit sweets and the coastal elements you’d expect to find in a Campbeltown dram.
I enjoyed this one. Much like the Auchnagie and Stratheden drams I reviewed here it feels quite unlike other products on the market, with a combination of flavours you just don’t come across very often. £36 a bottle? I would pay it.
The Archivist’s Selection apparently features older malts in the blend and comes bottled at the higher strength of 46% for a recommended retail price of around £50.
Smell: To the blenders credit, this certainly feels like the same spirit as the Classic bottling with a similar balance between sweet fruit notes and oily smoke. Paraffin lamps. Brine. Black pepper. The smoke is thicker here, more acrid. Fruits have evolved too – fresher than in the Classic… Lemon. Mango. Pineapple. Raspberry even. There’s also salted caramel and butterscotch.
Taste: Fresh fruit – though less obvious than the nose. Brine. Pepper. Vanilla. Oak tannin. Cocoa beans. Currants. Peppercorns. Oily peat smoke. Tar. Old rope. Then toffee and salted caramel.
Value for Money: Whether as a result of the spirit being older, or just from the higher bottling strength, the Archivist’s Selection does seem to offer more depth of flavour than the Classic. As with its younger sibling however it is an interesting and unique little dram that comes at a reasonable price.
There’s not much separating these two. There’s a lightness of touch with the Classic Selection that works very well with that confectionery character, whilst the higher strength of the Archivist’s bottling dials up the intensity of the smoke. As a fan of a coastal smoke flavour profile, the latter just about nicks it for me but either bottling would be welcome to a place in my cabinet.
*You can buy the whiskies reviewed in this article from Master of Malt.
For the Classic Selection click here
For the Archivist’s Selection click here
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Visit the Lost Distillery Company website here.