Coleburn (Pronounced: just like you write it)
Speyside (Lossie region)
57°35'1.9032 N, 3°16'20.3808 W
Glen Elgin, Mannochmore, Benriach, Longmorn
Closed (in 1985)
An on-site well (cooling water from the Glen Burn)
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
United Distillers (until 1992)
Longmorn by Elgin, Morayshire, IV38 8GN
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) The Coleburn malt whisky distillery was located four miles south of the town of Elgin, in a valley between an old railway line that was closed in 1966 and the road A491.
2) The Coleburn distillery was refurbished during the 1950's & 1960's; the worm tubs were replaced by condensers and they switched from open coal firing to internal steam heating around the same time.
3) The maltings at the Coleburn distillery were closed in 1968.
4) According to Thomas Lipka, whisky writer Jim Murray described Coleburn as a "substandard and inferior whisky".
5) Another discovery of Thomas Lipka was the mundane reason for the unusually slow construction of the Coleburn distillery by architect Charles Doig in the late 1800's. The lavatory that was required for the excise office took no less than 18 months to construct for some obscure reason - and the excise officer's house took even longer to build.
6) Because most of the malt whisky that was distilled at the Coleburn was destined for blended whisky, (and they used mostly ex-bourbon casks for maturation) one might imagine that the whisky was not actually very interesting, but quite a few of the expressions I've tried actually managed to earn a score in the 80's.
7) Coleburn is said to have been a component of Diageo's Johnnie Walker blended whiskies.
Coleburn 26yo 1983/2009 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency, Ex Bourbon Hogshead, 120 Bottles)
Nose: Subtle grainy notes with a whiff of citrus. A slightly farmy base with fruity overtones.
Grows a little more metallic after some breathing. A little dusty too with honeysuckle in the background.
This is one that requires a lot of time and attention - it's best to take at least an hour with this one.
Taste: Smooth start with a tiny pinch of smoke, quickly growing herbal right after swallowing it. Beer?
The smoke returns at the start of the very dry, herbal finish. Whiff of camphor or menthol? Intriguing.
Score: 83 points - the nose is interesting, but extremely subtle. You really have to work on it.
It makes the 80's because it's a nicely developing 'puzzle' malt, although it's not really my type...
So, this is a very 'personal' score - I liked it a lot, but others might adore it even more than I did.
Coleburn 19yo 1981/2001 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, Sherry butt, D. 22/10/81, B. 17/5/01)
Nose: Wow! Very expressive. A fruity surface with something evil lurking in the deep. Drops off with time.
Taste: Not quite as endearing as the nose at first, but it develops. Fermenting fruits. Antique twist in the finish.
Score: 84 points - I actually had it at 85/86 at first, but it can't quite sustain itself at that level.
Coleburn 30yo 1970/2000 (57%, Signatory Vintage, 13/1/70, 7/9/02, C#100, 302 Bottles)
Nose: Fairly neutral with a hint of smoke. This is far too subtle for my tastes - it's almost like a blend.
Taste: Very light and sweet on the palate, despite the high proof. Not a lot of personality, it seems.
Score: 75 points - my whisky scores don't come any more 'average' than this.
Coleburn 17yo 1965 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice Old Brown Label)
Nose: Malty, rich and sweet. Quite a bit more expressive than most CC's. Something nutty? A nice one.
Taste: Smooth and slick. Subtle fruitiness on the palate. Gooseberry? Great body, despite being 'just' 40%.
Score: 82 points - now here's a Connoisseur's Choice bottling I could - and would - recommend to anybody.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Coleburn Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Coleburn page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Coleburn expressions that have been released in the past. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Coleburn is yet another Speyside distillery that
didn't survive the 1980's. In that sense, the
recent history of the distillery resembles that
of Banff, Convalmore, Dallas Dhu, Glen Albyn,
Glencraig, Glen Flagler, Glenlochy, Glen Mhor,
Glenugie, Glenury Royal, Hillside / Glenesk,
Millburn, North Port / Brechin, Port Ellen and
Located in Speyside between the Glen Elgin
and Speyburn distilleries, Coleburn was
founded in 1896 by John Robertson & Sons.
The source of the name of the distillery was
"charcoal burn" - because the area used to
be a centre of charcoal production in the past.
The owners decided to close Coleburn in 1913
and sold it to the Clynelish Distillery Co. Ltd.
in 1916. One year later the distillation license
of Coleburn was transferred to J. & G. Stewart,
a subsidiary of DCL (Distillers Company Limited).
They made everything official in 1930 when
DCL bought the Coleburn distillery altogether.
The operation of the Coleburn distillery was transferred to Scottisch Malt Distillers
1930 as well, and this may very well have been the last noteworthy event in the history of
Coleburn. Because SMD and DCL would later evolve into United Distillers and the current
Diageo conglomerate it could be considered as a distillery in the Diageo stable. However, the
distillery was closed by DCL in 1985 - one year before DCL became part of United Distillers.
Coleburn has always been a malt whisky that was
destined for blending. Two blends that were closely
connected with Coleburn in the early years were
Yellow Label (a popular blend from the founders
James Robertson & Son, who originally started out
as blenders in Dundee) and the Andrew Usher
blends from J. & G. Stewart. In more recent times
the majority of the malt whisky that was distilled
at Coleburn was used in Diageo's Johnnie Walker
Red Label blend. There have only been a handful
of independent bottles and the 21yo UD release at
the right was the only semi-official bottling ever.
Independent bottlings of Coleburn are very rare as well; there are less than
twenty independent bottlings on the MMMonitor - most of them from Gordon
and MacPhail, but a few from Cadenhead's, Douglas Laing, MacKillop's Choice,
Signatory and The Whisky Agency. The license to distill whisky at Coleburn
was cancelled in 1992, which means that the list of independent releases
won't grow much longer; most available casks will have been bottled by now.
The Coleburn distillery will remain silent forever; the equipment for whisky
distillation has been dismantled and the buildings have been renovated.
In the mid 1990's United Distillers developed some plans to convert the old
buildings of Coleburn to apartments, but in 2004 those buildings were sold
to the Winchester brothers instead. Musicians Mark and Dale Winchester
did plan to build an 'activity centre' with a concert hall on this location, but
when I write this latest update I'm not sure what has happened to the site.
Over the years I've only manage to sampled a few different expressions of Coleburn.
So, I'm afraid that I have very little personal perspectives to offer - I just lack the experience.
If you're looking for an more solid opinion of Coleburn, you should be able to find more tasting notes on Whiskyfun.
Is the distillery or