The Dalwhinnie distillery is located in Inverness-shire
(a.k.a. the 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. - ran by investors John Grant,
Alex Mackenzie and George Sellar.
At the time, the bill for the construction work
for the new distillery was just 10,000 pounds.
Production at Dalwhinnie started in February
1898 - but the owners soon encountered some
The original name 'Strathspey' was changed
to 'Dalwhinnie' when it was sold to new owners;
the aptly named Dalwhinnie Distillery Co.
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 1905 Dalwhinnie was sold for 1,250 GBP.
In 1919 Macdonald Greenlees & Williams Ltd. bought Dalwhinnie, but just a few years later (in 1926, to be
precise) Macdonald Greenlees were themselves bought by the DCL. Nevertheless, their name appeared on bottles
until at least the early 1980's - perhaps even later.
The DCL first tansffered Dalwhinnie to J.& G.
Stewart Ltd. and then to SMD (for 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.
Oddly enough Dalwhinnie was refurbished
again in 1992 - to the tune of 3,2 million
pounds. A visitor centre was opened as well.
Dalwhinnie's two stills started producing
whisky again in 1938 and keeps doing so
relatively undisturbed for the next 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.
Despite the major refurbishments, Dalwhinnie still
uses worm tubs to cool the fresh spirit from the still, just like Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Oban and Talisker.
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 used to be my least favourite Classic Malt.
It's just a little too smooth and friendly for my tastes. But that's just my personal opinion; some of my friends
absolutely LOVE the stuff and I have to admit that 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' in the world of single malts.
Dalwhinnie is one of Diageo's six 'Classic Malts', along with Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban & 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 pot still. A few malt maniacs had the chance to inspect worm tubs
at Edradour in 2003 and on the roof of Oban in 2005.
The Dalwhinnie distillery is located just outside the fairly
crowded Speyside region in the heart of Scotland, so its
closest neighbours like Aberfeldy, Drumguish and
Edradour are not exactly next door.
The water source for the Dalwhinnie distillery is the nearby
Allt an t’Sluie Burn - at least for its process water.
With an elevation just short of Braeval’s 355 meters, Dalwhinnie has been Scotland’s second highest distillery
for many years. As far as I know this is still the case, although I still need to check the details on some of the most
recent additions to Scotland’s whisky distilleries.
1) Dalwhinnie was part of Diageo's original series of 6 classic
'Classic Malts' - together with Cragganmore, Glenkinchie,
Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker. This series was first released in
1988. Around 2005 a bunch of other distilleries were added to
the range of 'classic malts'; Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish,
Glen Elgin, Glen Ord, Knockando & Royal Lochnagar.
2) Dalwhinnie is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries
that were founded over a century ago during the 'whisky boom'
of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive
until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore,
Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich,
Bunnahabhain, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes,
Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and
6) The Dalwhinnie distillery is one of the few Scotch whisky distilleries where worm tubs are still in use.
Even more unique: the worm tubs at Dalwhinnie are made from wood (they usually are made of metal).
3) Dalwhinnie distillery has two racked warehouses with
room for 5,000 casks of maturing Scotch whisky.
4) In 1905 the Dalwhinny distillery was bought by an American
company for the friendly price of 1,250 GBP. The company
Cook & Bernheimer from New York were the very first foreign
owners of a Scottish whisky distillery.
5) Many sources claim that Dalwhinnie is the whisky distillery with the highest elevation in Scotland.
However, the height of the Braeval distillery to the south east seems to be comparable; +/- 355 meters.
2002 - A 36 years old official bottling of
Dalwhinnie whisky is launched.
2008 - The full production capacity of
Dalwhinnie distillery is utilized for the first time
in quite a few years. The number of 'mashes'
was increased by 50% from 10 to 15 mashes
per week. Nevertheless, virtually all malt whisky
that is produced at Dalwhinnie is used for
Diageo's own whiskies - independent bottlings
are still very hard to find.
2012 - A 25yo expression is released.
2015 - The Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold is released - their first regular expression without an age statement.
2003 - A 29yo successor is released.
2010 - Some 70,000 cases of the Dalwhinnie
single malt whisky are sold world wide.
Dalwhinnie 20yo 1986/2006 (56,8%, OB, Refill European Casks)
Nose: Shoe polish. Coffee beans. Faintest hint of smoke. Some spices. Distinguished profile.
Taste: Gentle start, quickly followed by a big fruity attack. Good, solid centre. Toffee. Gentle, chewable tannins.
Score: 86 points - further proof that I DO actually like Dalwhinnie - provided it has been aged for long enough.
This whisky matched the score of the Dalwhinnie 36yo 1966/2002 (47.2%, OB) - my previous favourite bottling.
Dalwhinnie 1989/2004 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 of Dalwhinnie so far.
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 36yo 1966/2002 (47.2%, OB, 1500 Bottles)
Nose: Rich and velvety. Fruity with just a hint of the farm in the background. Gooseberry. Polished wood.
Taste: Fruity. Smooth start with a dusty afterburn after a few seconds. Sweetness vanishes over time.
Score: 86 points - a very sophisticated malt, but for me it's a tad too bitter in the finish to reach the 90's.
Actually, this might very well be the best Dalwhinnie whisky I've ever tried... Yes, indeed it is!
Dalwhinnie 1981 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, code D.SD.312, finished in Oloroso sherry casks, late 1990's)
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 whisky.
Dalwhinnie 15yo 'Centenerary' (43%, OB, 1998)
Nose: 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 of this particular whisky.
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 of Dalwhinnie whisky reminded me a bit of the old Cardhu single malt - maybe a little lighter.
Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2014)
Nose: It has been more than a decade since I spent money on a ‘regular’ Dalwhinnie.
It’s still quite ‘grainy’ for a malt whisky. Mild and slightly sweet without many obvious traits.
This is still a whisky that needs quite some time in the glass. Some fruity notes emerge over time.
Taste: Sweetish with a gentle ‘malty’ profile. Still too much bitter notes in the finish for my taste.
Score: 69 points - with more older expressions in the line-up the weakest casks end up in this vatting.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Dalwhinnie malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Dalwhinnie I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Dalwhinnie.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.