Craigellachie distillery is located near the centre of the famous Speyside region in Scotland. It was designed to produce a spirit that would differ from other Scotch whiskies.
The distillery was founded in 1890 by Victorian entrepreneur Alexander Edward. Today it is owned by Bacardi and forms part of their John Dewar & Sons portfolio. A small core range of single malt bottlings is available.
Craigellachie produces a robust spirit with a distinctive, meaty character. Its mature whisky is weighty with lots of fruit and malty notes. Sometimes a gentle wisp of smoke can be detected.
Craigellachie is equipped with four copper pot stills and is capable of producing 4 million litres per year.
The distinctive character of the spirit is created during the production process. Fermentation in wooden washbacks for 65 hours encourages the development of tropical fruit flavours in the wash.
Craigellachie is also famed for its sulphur content. Sulphur occurs naturally during distillation. Most distilleries aim for around 3 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur. Craigellachie runs at 30ppm.
Sulphur is normally removed by copper contact but the Craigellachie worm tub condensers limit this contact and preserve the sulphur content in the spirit. Over many years in oak casks, the sulphur note evolves to give the whisky its unique meaty character.
Maturation takes place predominantly in ex-bourbon hogsheads though some ex-sherry butts are used.
As well as being home to The Macallan distillery, the village of Craigellachie was a railway hub that connected to the south via the Strathspey railway. Those transport links gave Edward a convenient route to the blending houses of Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Partnering with Peter Mackie of White Horse Ltd, he employed architect Charles Doig to design his distillery. Doig invented the pagoda-style roof that still crowns many a Scottish distillery today. The renowned architect equipped Craigellachie with the most up-to-date technologies.
Edward wasn’t finished there, however. Encouraged by the increasing Victorian interest in the Scottish Highlands, he built holiday accommodation and a grand hotel in the village. Later he would work on the Aultmore, Dallas Dhu and Benromach distilleries.
Such other interests caused Edward to part with Craigellachie in 1900. He left the distillery under the sole ownership of Peter Mackie.
Mackie’s White Horse, including Craigellachie, was purchased by DCL in 1930. In 1964, they oversaw an expansion of the site. The still-room was completely rebuilt to the same design as was used at Caol Ila, Clynelish and Glen Ord.
DCL merged with IDV in 1998. Fearing a monopoly, the government pressured the organisation to sell some of its estates. The Dewar’s brand was snapped up by Bacardi, along with five distilleries. They were Aberfeldy, Macduff, Aultmore, Royal Brackla and Craigellachie.
Traditionally, Craigellachie produced spirit for use in blended Scotch but in 2014, Bacardi launched a single malt. The current range comprises prime numbered age statements. There are 13, 17 and 23-year-old expressions. Each is bottled un-chill-filtered at 46% alcohol by volume.