Pulteney Distillery is the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland, situated in the fishing port of Wick. Established in 1826 by Mr James Henderson it was located to allow the whisky produced to be easily transported by sea, the only means available at this time to reach the main consumers in the provincial towns of Scotland.
The distillery remained in the possession of the Henderson family until 1920, when it was sold to James Watson & Son who in turn were taken over by John Dewar & son. DCL purchased the distillery in 1925 only to cease production in 1930, in 1955 Robert Cumming purchased the distillery from DCL. This gave him two distilleries, Pulteney and Balblair, both now owned by Inver House Distillers.
The main water supply to the distillery is via a lade that comes from the nearby Loch Hempriggs. In the 1890's Thomas Telford was commissioned to build this lade along with Wick harbour and Pulteney town.
Pulteney distillery has two stills, one wash still and one spirit still, producing approximately 1 million litres of whisky a year. The spirit still is unique in shape due to there being no actual head and swan neck. This is due to the still being delivered and being too tall for the stillhouse. The manager at the time instructed the coppersmith to cut the top off thus creating the unique shape, often described as looking like a smugglers kettle.
When you step into the distillery itself it is like stepping back in time, due to the fact that the traditional ways of operating are still used today. You will not see any computers or electronic gadgets just Stillmen and Mashmen that have a great knowledge of the whisky making process and a great affection for the Pulteney they produce for others to enjoy. Even in the stillhouse modern condensers have been frowned upon and the traditional worm tubs are still used. These condense the spirit at a snails' pace as it winds around up to 90 metres of copper pipe before ending up returning to the stillhouse via the highly polished brass spirit safe. Here it sits in a vessel until the men have time to put it in the finest oak casks, then off to the warehouse where it rests and matures for 12 years or more. Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky is then made available so you can all savour the uniqueness of this caringly created Dram.
Founded in 1790 Balblair is the second oldest working distillery in Scotland. It is situated on the Dornoch firth, one of the most stunning scenic areas of Scotland. The area is known as the 'parish of the peats' whilst the name Balblair means battlefield or town of the plain. John Ross founded the distillery and ran it as a thriving business until in 1817 he was sequestrated. However, this did not stop him and in 1824 he was joined by his son Andrew in the family business. The distillery stayed in the Ross family until 1894 when the tenancy was taken over by Alexander Cowan. In 1948 the freehold was bought by Mr. Robert Cumming who promptly expanded the distillery and increased production. Mr Cumming ran the distillery until 1970 when he sold it to what became Allied Distillers; for the first time in its history Balblair was not owned by local businessmen. In 1996 Balblair was purchased by Inver House Distillers.
The distillery itself has two pot stills capable of producing approximately 1.4 million litres of whisky a year. The water is drawn from the Ault Dearg burn which originates in the Struie hills.
Today the Ross legacy of the area lives on as four out of the seven current employees share the surname Ross.
Knockdhu distillery is situated in the Highlands of Scotland, on the very edge of the Speyside region in a small village called Knock. The distillery itself was founded in 1894 after the discovery of several springs on the nearby Knock hill.
The Knock hill is known to locals as AnCnoc, which comes from the Gaelic for "black hill". Transformed by the weather, the heathers and other vegetation growing on the hill appear black from a distance hence the locals name of the black hill.
When the distillery was opened in 1894 is was seen as a showpiece with two pot stills turning out 2500 gallons of spirit per week. The pot stills are made to the same design today, producing the same spirit that was produced over 100 years ago. In 1989 Knockdhu became the first distillery that Inver House Distillers purchased, thus becoming the dawn of a new era for the company.
As with other distilleries within the Inver House Distillers group the methods of producing the whisky have changed very little since production began all those years ago.
A traditional cast iron mash tun is used in the mashing process. Although not as efficient as its modern counterparts it is similar to what was first used.
Wooden washbacks made from Douglas fir are preferred to modern stainless steel. Again these are less efficient, but are reflected in the character of the finished Scotch Whisky product. There are six in total each fermenting batch sizes of 21500 litres.
The modern condenser is also not apparent on the stills; these are again left as they were with traditional worm tubs. The unique part of the wormtubs at Knockdhu is that both the spirit and wash worm share the same cooling tub.
Often described as the most photographed distillery in Scotland, Speyburn Distillery sits nestling in a valley on the northern edge of Rothes. There is a timeless feel and an air of serenity - the type of place whisky was meant to be made.
The distillery has a compact layout, due mainly to the geography of the land. The architect, Charles Doig, designed the distillery using height as opposed to width. The unique drum maltings occupy a smaller area than a conventional floor maltings and other buildings, including the cask warehouses, are on two or three levels.
Very little has changed over the last 100 years with most of the original features still intact - indeed still being used, although the maltings are no longer in production. Once milled the grist and hot water is transferred to a traditional rake mash tun from which 25,000 litres of wort is pumped into Douglas Fir wash backs. The still room has never been extended and houses a single pair of stills. True to form the alcohol vapours are condensed using over 100 metres of copper pipe submerged in cold water worm tubs.
Balmenach distillery is nestled at the bottom of the Haughs of Cromdale in the Spey valley. It was in these hills on the last day of April 1690 that an army of jacobite soldiers were ambushed by dragoon guards. As the jacobite forces were ambushed during their sleep many were slain and the remaining fled nearly naked; this defeat effectively ended the jacobite rising in the highlands.
In the early 1800's three brothers crossed these hills from Tomintoul and set up a farm. One of these brothers was a James McGregor who also set up an illicit still on the site. Shortly after the licensing act was introduced, James McGregor obtained a license for his distillery formally establishing it in 1824.
The distillery was owned and operated by the McGregor family until it was sold in 1922 to a company that would become DCL. In 1993 UDV took the decision to mothball Balmenach, it lay silent until 1998 when Inver House Distillers bought the distillery making it the company's fifth and largest distillery. The first distillate of Balmenach for 5 years was then produced in March that year, and stored in casks in one of the three dunnage warehouses on the site.
In common with Inver House Distillers' other plants, the traditional machinery and methods are still used to this day. This includes a cast iron mash tun mashing slightly more than 8 tonnes every 7.5 hours. The wash is fermented in six Douglas fir washbacks for a minimum of 50 hours before it is sent to the stillhouse for distillation.
The stillhouse houses three wash stills and three spirit stills capable of producing over 2 million litres of whisky a year. This sprit travels slowly through 90 metres of copper tube coils in large tubs of cold water, known as "worm tubs", before it enters one of the two spirit safes in the stillhouse. From there it is transferred to one of two spirit vats. The spirit is finally matured in oak casks for many years until the spirit is deemed at its best for bottling.
Today at Balmenach Distillery Inver House Distillers also produce their premium Gin, Caorunn Gin.
Caorunn is inspired by Celtic tradition and is infused with five Celtic botanicals. It is handcrafted and small batch distilled gin controlled by the Gin Master, Simon Buley. A small batch is usually 1,000 litres. We use pure grain spirit, not molasses like most gins, to ensure high quality.
The pure grain spirit is vaporised through our Unique Copper Berry Chamber that was made in the 1920's, when gin was produced with a slow process to enable enough time to infuse the subtle flavour of the botanicals. It is a round chamber with copper frame and carries 4 trays.
We spread our botanicals on the trays, allowing the grain spirit vapour to meet the botanicals on a largest possible surface during the infusion process and to pick up the aromatics and flavours of the botanicals.
Caorunn draws on centuries of distilling expertise, on the pure Scottish Highland water provided by the surrounding springs and the time-honoured Celtic botanicals which are characteristic plants of the surrounding hills of Balmenach Distillery.