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The Rise of Crabbie’s
John Crabbie & Co began life as a merchant in the city of Edinburgh. When John took over from his Father, Miller Crabbie, he expanded the family business and purchased a former brewery in Leith to act as his headquarters. The company became a distiller with the opening of the Haddington Grain Distillery in 1852. Crabbie & Co also produced gin and various liqueurs although became most famous for its Green Ginger Wine.
Haddington Distillery wasn’t in production for very long but John Crabbie was named as chairman for the North British Grain Distillery, an operation which had been set up to oppose the monopoly of the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL). Ironically, Crabbie’s own company would itself be swallowed up by DCL in the 1960s.
By then, Crabbie’s was known for its non-alcoholic ginger beer, although a few single malts continued to carry the label. During the cull of the 1980s, brought on by massive overproduction, DCL off-loaded Crabbie’s to Macdonald & Muir, then owner of Glenmorangie. In 2007, the brand was sold again, this time to Halewood Artisanal Spirits.
Halewood re-established Crabbie’s on the whisky scene with a range of affordably priced single malt and blended Scotch whiskies. Though the spirit used in the bottlings was sourced from other distilleries, long term plans were being forged that would see the company become a distiller in its own right. A location was found in the Port of Leith, a short distance from John Crabbie’s original headquarters.
Building work on the new Bonnington Distillery was significantly delayed as a result of several important archaeological discoveries on the site. Among the relevant finds were furnaces from a bronze foundry, the lost Bonnington House mansion and evidence of the 16th-century Siege of Leith. To complicate matters further, there was also evidence of a distillery that once operated on the site in the 1700s.
Work was eventually completed and the first casks filled with new make spirit in 2020. The new distillery looks to innovate with some interesting experiments taking place. One such project saw distillers take both a high cut and a low cut off the same spirit run in order to create two unique flavour profiles from the same distillation.
The bottling of Bonnington single malt still appears to be some way off but Crabbie’s continue to bottle sourced spirit in an array of different expressions. Serving as an affordable introduction to the range is Yardhead, named after the location of John Crabbie’s original Leith premises.
Yardhead is a no-age-statement single malt Scotch whisky, bottled at 40%. It retails around £24.
*Full disclosure: the whisky featured in this review was included in an advent calendar that I was sent for free. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Malty. Vanilla. Breakfast cereal. Muesli. Oatcakes. Custard creams. Honey. Apple and some light citrus notes. There’s a wee touch of new oak.
Taste: Fizzy sweets. Lemon sherbet. Green apples. White grapes. Honey. Toffee. Malt. Oatcakes. Gentle woody spice. Ginger and cinnamon. Malty finish.
Thoughts: There’s certainly nothing unpleasant going on but nor is there anything all that exciting. It would likely do you a turn in a highball or acting as a base for a hot toddy or suchlike. Beyond that I’m not seeing anything that would encourage you to choose this over all the other budget-friendly bottles on the market.
Value for money: No complaints about the price. It’s positioned alongside the likes of Monkey Shoulder and quality wise it’s probably of a similar standard. A functional starter malt but nothing to really grab the attention of the enthusiast.
You can buy Crabbie’s Yardhead Single Malt at Master of Malt buy here
*Please be aware that this is an affiliate link. As such I can be paid a small commission on any purchase you make.
**Other retailers are available.
For more on Crabbie’s visit here.