Closed Distillery and Lost Malts Tasting

Just a little over a month ago, I went to my first ever Jolly Toper tasting held at the Kilderkin on the Canongate. It is indeed shameful that I have lived in Edinburgh for just under 11 years and this was my first Toper tasting.  For those who don’t know Mark Davidson aka the Jolly Toper, he is also the manager of Royal Mile Whiskies. I’ve been to his tastings there on many occasions so, hopefully, with this in mind, I can redeem myself amongst the five or so people who read this blog.

This particular event was a tasting of five drams (all 25ml pours, thank the goddesses) from lost or closed distilleries. The bottles were kindly donated by Jason Julier aka Whisky Rover from his own private collection. Tickets were £50 each (so much for mates’ rates, Julier!) but, let’s face it, to try all of these whiskies in a whisky bar would’ve cost three times that. At least. Also, had Jason decided to sell his soul to the auction house, he could have made significantly more money on these bottles. Instead they were opened to give 25 people the chance to appreciate whisky they may not get the chance to try again.

Mosstowie whisky

Mosstowie 32 years – 51.5%

Nose: subtle oak; pencil sharpenings; floral notes in the background; buttered toast; slight notes of smoked meat

Palate: pepper; ginger; gooseberries; aniseed towards the finish; slight waxy texture

With a few drops of water, notes of old books and leather come to the fore on the nose and the ginger is enhanced on the palate.

This spirit was distilled on 6th February 1979 and bottled on 12th January 2012; it was bourbon barrel matured producing just 211 bottles.

 Mosstowie isn’t a closed distillery as such. It was actually an annex of Miltonduff distillery, using a pair of Lomond style stills to produce spirit with a different character. This piece from Mark at Malt Review is a really good source of information about the ‘distillery’: Malt Review

Glenlochy whisky

Glenlochy 17 years – 61.8%

Nose: dusty; BBQ smoke on your clothes the next morning; black tea; hints of talcum powder; lemon citrus; white wine; fruit cocktail syrup.

Palate: huge spice kick at the start; Space Dust tingles; a few drops of water enhances the spice.

A extremely interesting nose but it loses a bit on the palate.

Glenlochy, in Fort William, was one of the distilleries closed by Scottish Malt Distillers in the 1980s. The warehouses and production buildings have since been demolished. The maltings remain, having been converted into flats, and the distillery cottages are now a guest house.

Craigduff whisky

Craigduff 32 years – 53.9%

Nose: initial thoughts are this is sherry cask matured; slight char; almonds; subtle hints of peach or nectarine. With a few drops of water, slight notes of tobacco start to appear.

Palate: pepper; oak spice; tobacco; gooseberries; slightly drying on the finish which is long.

The spirit was distilled on 4th April 1973 and 557 bottles were produced.

Craigduff was an experimental whisky made from heavily peated malt at Strathisla distillery.

Carsebridge 33 years – 44.9%

Nose: Butterkist popcorn; crème caramel; vanilla fudge; there was something that reminded me of curry in the background!

Palate: Butterkist popcorn; crème brûlée; quite drying with a dark chocolate bitterness on the finish.

This spirit was distilled (from maize) in December 1982 and bottled in September 2016. Despite the colour having all the hallmarks of a sherry cask matured whisky, this was aged in a bourbon cask.

Carsebridge was another victim of the 80s closures; the distillery was closed in 1983.

Glen Isla whisky

Glen Isla 34 years – 44.3%

Nose: initial thoughts were that something had died in my glass; very reminiscent of a farmyard; cow dung; hints of both sweat and bleach; strong white wine notes start to come through as do hints of strawberry laces and Fisherman’s Friends.

Palate: much more subtle than the nose suggests; oak; some fruit – maybe melon; Tyrozets.

This was distilled on 7th July 1977 and bottled on 11th November 2011.

Glen Isla was also an experiment, using peated malt, distilled at Glen Keith distillery in Speyside.

Whisky is, of course, entirely subjective. It’s always good to read more than one review. Jason’s write up can be found here: Whisky Rover.


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