Production at Dalwhinnie started in February 1898, but the
owners soon encountered finacial problems and the original
name 'Strathspey' was changed to 'Dalwhinnie' when it was
sold to new owners; the aptly named Dalwhinnie Distillery Co.

The Dalwhinnie distillery is located in the Inverness-shire
or Strathspey area in the western Highlands, but according
to some sources it is a
Speyside distillery. Dalwhinnie was
built in 1897 by the Strathspey Distillery Co Ltd. under the
guidance of John Grant, Alex Mackenzie and George Sellar.
The bill for the construction work was just 10,000 pounds.

Dalwhinnie fifteen years old Scotch whisky

The young distillery had to endure quite a few changes during the early 1900's, including some improvements made by famous architect Charles Doig and more changes in ownership. In 1919 Macdonald Greenlees & Williams Ltd.'s bought Dalwhinnie, but just a few years later (in 1926, to be precise) Macdonald Greenlees were themselves bought by the DCL. 

Dalwhinnie distillery, Scotland
Where to find Dalwhinnie

Water source:

Dalwhinnie location
Dalwhinnie Distillery Profile

Dalwhinnie  (Pronounced: dal-WHIN-ee)
Western Highlands (some argue 'Speyside')
Aberfeldy , Drumguish, Edradour
Allt an t-Sluie Burn
1 Wash, 1 Spirit
1,300,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
UDV / Diageo (since 1926)
Dalwhinnie, Inverness-shire PH19 1AB

Dalwhinnie Distillery Profile

Dalwhinnie single malt whiskyTrack Record - overview of all single malts and scores

Dalwhinnie is now owned by UDV, part of Diageo plc. For a long time the only available expressions were the standard 15yo and the 'Distiller's Edition' (double matured). Around 2003 29yo and 36yo versions were released. I must admit that I haven't tried these yet because, quite frankly, I'm not the biggest Dalwhinnie fan around. After the Glenkinchie 10yo, the Dalwhinnie 15yo is my least favourite classic malt. It's just a little too smooth and friendly for my tastes. But that's just my personal opinion; many of my friends LOVE the stuff and I have to admit it's the perfect dram to pour for people who are used to drinking blends because it shows the finesse, smoothness and depth of single malts versus blends without becoming too extreme for 'beginners'.

I know that Dalwhinnie is one of the better known 'brands' on the single malt whisky shelf of your local liquorist, but when I write this (March 2006) I've only tried these five expressions of Dalwhinnie;

Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: Flowery and a little grassy at first. A hint of oil, developing into nutty and malty tones.
Hint of honey? Hay? Something very lightly fruity - apples or pears perhaps. A little MOTR.
Taste: Fairly flat at first, becoming a little rounder, maltier and sweeter towards the centre.
Doesn't really leave a lasting impression. Surprisingly hot and dry in the finish.
Score: 71 points - it's just not really my type of malt, I guess. Too much 'one size fits all'.
This batch reminded me a bit of the old Cardhu single malt - maybe a little lighter.

Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1989)
A lot of nose - more so than earlier batches? Fresh, and a little chemical.
Just a pinch of peat??? Grassy and slightly oily. Dried apples and peanuts?
The taste is very soft and smooth, a bit malty with a very nice afterburn.
Score: 72 points - a tad more 'up my alley' than earlier batches.

Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Light and grainy with a touch of honey. Faint spices? Remains 'middle of the road'.
Maybe a hint of dust? Some tea. Mild and accessible - and it opens up slightly over time.
More and more tea over time. Mealy apples? And it keeps on opening up - a nice surprise.
Taste: Malty and quite sweet. Not very well defined. Menthol? Some coffee notes, perhaps?
The sweetness vanishes and it grows a tad bitter towards the finish - it loses points here.
Score: 72 points - could it be I'm slowly growing fonder of 'natural' malts? Maybe - slowly.

Dalwhinnie 1981 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, code D.SD.312, finished in Oloroso sherry casks)
Nose: A lot stronger than the standard 15, with much more sherry.
Oloroso. Hay and a hint of liquorice root. A pinch of peat as well.
Taste: A watery start. Slightly sherried. Becomes very toffee-like, then bitter.
Long, oaky finish. Definitely more powerful than the standard 15.
Rating: 74 points - I like it more than the standard version because it demonstrates more character.
That being said, I think it's certainly not worth the money - better go for a 'proper' sherried malt.

Dalwhinnie 1989 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, DSL 312, finished in Oloroso sherry casks)
Nose: Sweet & grainy. Smells like a blend, actually. It moves in an oilier direction for a while.
Give it time, though - it becomes spicier with just a hint of organics after some breathing.
Taste: Relatively gritty and not potent enough to lift the overall score above average.
Score: 75 points - an 'average' score, but still my favourite expression so far.

Check out my Track Record for a complete and up-to-date overview of all 'siplings' I've tried.

Trivia about Dalwhinnie: Dalwhinnie is one of Diageo's six 'Classic Malts', along with Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker. (These six 'classic malts' have now been integrated in a larger portfolio called 'Classic Malts Selection). Out of the original six distilleries, five still use worm tubs; a fairly old fashioned technique for cooling the vapours and fresh spirit that has just condensed at the top of the still. A few malt maniacs had the chance to inspect working worm tubs at Edradour in 2003 and on the roof of Oban in 2005.

Oddly enough Dalwhinnie was refurbished again in 1992, to the tune of 3,2 million pounds and a visitor centre was opened. Despite the major refurbishments, Dalwhinnie still uses worm tubs to cool the fresh spirit from the still, just like Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Oban and Talisker.

The DCL first tansffered Dalwhinnie to J.& G.Stewart Ltd. and then to SMD (Scottish Malt Distilleries) in 1930. Four years later, in February 1934, Dalwhinnie was seriously damaged by a fire and it took another four years to bring the distillery back to life again. Dalwhinnie's two stills started producing whisky again in 1938 and keeps doing so relatively undisturbed for the next few decades. The maltings are decommissioned in 1968 but it isn't until a complete refurbishment in 1986 that the large stills at Dalwhinnie fall (temporarily) silent again.

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