The Glen Keith distillery was built in 1957-1960 on the site of a corn mill by Chivas Brothers,
who also owned the nearby Strathisla distillery. It was one of the first new malt distilleries to
be built in Scotland since the late-Victorian whisky boom.
Glen Keith (a.k.a. Glenkeith) originally had 3 stills because the distillery was designed
for triple distillation - a 'Lowland' set-up which was very unusual for a Speyside distillery.
The number of stills was increased to 5 in 1970, when they switched to double distillation.
The new stills were a novelty; they were the first gas-fired stills in Scotland. The Glen
Keith distillery was mothballed in 1999 and sold to Pernod Ricard in 2001. Sadly, the
new owners didn't maintain the original distillery equipment in the decade that followed.
That made it look like Glen Keith distillery was now silent for good - various pieces of
distillery equipment require regular maintenance and cleaning to remain in working order.
The Glen Keith distillery buildings themselves remained in tip-top shape though...
Glen Keith was actually
revived again in 2013,
but I'll get back to that later.
Glen Keith was a malt whisky distillery, but Chivas
Brothers also used it as a laboratory for experiments
with 'innovations' in production and processing.
When Chivas opened Glen Keith distillery in 1959, its
output was destined for blending purposes. The Glen
Keith malt whisky was used in Chivas Regal, Passport
and 100 Pipers blended whisky. As far as I know, the
Glen Keith 1983 depicted above (which was released
in the early 1990's) was the first real official bottling.
The Glen Keith 1983 single malt whisky was replaced
by a 10yo bottling a few years later, but it seems that
Chivas stopped releasing official bottlings a little later.
Even though Glen Keith and the nearby Strathisla distillery are
both owned by Chivas, they are very different. Strathisla is one of
the oldest distilleries in Scotland, Glen Keith was one of the first
to be constructed in Speyside in the 20th century.
Even though Glen Keith was reopened in 2013, it doesn’t have a visitor centre or offer a guided tour.
1) Until 1978, the official distillery name was 'Glen Keith-Glenlivet';
the 'Glenlivet' part had to be dropped from the name for legal reasons.
2) Glen Keith used to produce their own yeast strains - first from the
wort and then from the pot-ale. This yeast was used by distilleries of
the Chivas group like Strathisla and Glen Grant. Those experiments
were conducted by one Dr. Watson - a foremost authority on yeast.
These days the Chivas distilleries use (pasteurized) ‘commercial’
strains like Quest and Maury.
6) The Saladin boxes at Glen Keith were closed in 1976 - although
they could still have been used.
3) The famous and picturesque Strathisla distillery is located
just a few hundred yards from Glen Keith distillery.
7) Glen Keith is located on the bank of the small Isla river.
This stream also runs along the back of Strathisla and gave its name to the ‘Glenisla’ variety made at Glen Keith.
4) Glen Keith was the first distillery in Scotland to experiment with
automatic mashing in the 1980's.
5) After the conversion from meal-mill to distillery, Seagram's built
large racked warehouses by the side as a storage area for Glen
Keith and the other malt whiskies of the Chivas group.
8) The Glen Keith distillery used to be a meal mill. The Angus Milling Company were the last owners.
2001 - Subsidiary Chivas Brothers (including the distilleries it managed)
is bought by Pernod Ricard from Seagram’s.
2013 - The first production of malt whisky started again in April, before the
Glen Keith distillery was 'officially' reopened in on June 14, 2013.
2015 - Several independent bottlings of the Glen Keith malt whisky are
released, including a 1997/2015 in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseur’s
Choice series, a 1997/2015 by Master of Malt, a 19yo by The Whisky Agency
(bottled at 51,6%) and a 22yo (Cask #9153) in the Cooper’s Choice range.
2017 - The Glen Keith Distillery Edition is released in the UK.
It doesn’t have an age statement, but at 30 GBP it’s priced quite friendly.
2012 - After being mothballed for well over a decade, Glen Keith started
to be revived (in relative silence) by Chivas Brothers. To make room for a
new building, the old Saladin maltings were demolished.
2014 - The first official bottling of Glen Keith in a long time is bottled.
It was the Glen Keith 1995/2014 - bottled at cast strength and only available
at the Chivas visitor centre.
Glen Keith 1967/2006 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for LMdW Paris, 215 Bts.)
Aaaah… Sweet & smooth & polished. A brilliant dram but at first there didn't seem to be too much development.
Lovely fruits on the palate. Really magnificent, so it lands in the 90's right there and then.
Brilliant fruity tannins in the finish. During a second sampling it climbed to 91 points.
Score: 91 points - this old whisky made quite an impression at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006.
Glen Keith 33yo 1971/2005 (51.9%, Jack Wieber's Old Train Line)
Nose: Dark and sweet. Polished, maybe just a tad too much? Resin? Inconsistent. Rancid butter.
Taste: Strangely watery start, with a thick, burning centre. Smoke? A little odd, losing points.
Score: 82 points - I'd recommend it, but not TOO enthusiastically. Another weird JWWW palate.
Craigduff 32yo 1973/2005 (49.4%, Signatory, Sherry cask #2513, 566 Bottles, Glen Keith)
Nose: Sweet. Hint of mocca? Then some peat (?) covered in early fruits. A tad too subtle for me. Laddie?
It seemed far less subtle in the nose after some breathing. Warm milk and mocca. Faintest hint of peat.
Taste: Quite watery in the start. Then sweet liquorice. Something sour. Dry with playful tannins in the finish.
Now I got mocca on the palate too. Toffee. Malty and fruity too, with a hint of peat smoke. A tad dry in the finish.
Score: 87 points - maybe a tad subtle, but overall quite enjoyable. I'm simply a sucker for tannins I guess.
Glen Keith 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/-1998)
Nose: Quite grainy. Oily. Sweetish with something citrussy. Ginger? Woody; raw pine rather than polished oak.
Taste: Fairly weak. Sweet and toffeeish at first. Malty. Some fruits. Flat centre. Needs a higher proof?
Score: 70 points - this one didn't impress me as much as its '1983' predecessor from Glen Keith.
Glen Keith-Glenlivet 22yo 1973/1995 (57.1%, Cadenhead's, Distilled 04/1973, Bottled 10/1995)
Nose: Deep & complex. Organics, Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte. Sweetens out. Tea leaves? Smoke? Spicy punch.
Taste: Surprisingly light fruitiness. Honeyish. Drinkable at C/S. Breaks up with some water but bounces back.
Score: 79 points - almost recommendable.
Glen Keith 1983 (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1994, 70cl)
Nose: Restrained; slightly sweet & oily at first. After some breathing: wood, ginger and whiffs of citrus.
Taste: Very nice. Simple, sweet start grows more malty after a while. Ends in a dry and bitter finish.
Score: 74 points - not bad, but below average (and about ten points below many malts in the same price range).
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glen Keith malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Keith 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 Glen Keith.
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.
The last time I checked the Malt Maniacs Monitor it contained only official bottlings from the 1990's. All the recent
bottlings were released by independent bottlers until Glen Keith introduced the ‘Distillery Edition’ in 2017.
The picture at the left (by Martine Nouet) shows four of the stills
at Glen Keith distillery. Two of them were added in 1970; for 10
years the distillery switched between triple and double distillation.
In the 1980's they switched to double distillation completely.
In 1971 Glen Keith installed the first gas-fired stills in Scotland. Three years later, steam coils were installed.
At times, a peated malt whisky was produced at Glen Keith.
Martine Nouet asked Chivas' production manager Alan Winchester
about it and he told her that the peatiness of the spirit came from
the water and not from the malted barley as usual. The peat was
burnt, after which the peat smoke was passed through the water.
The dark, peaty water was then used in the production process.
This variety was sold under the names Glenisla and Craigduff.
Signatory Vintage has also bottled a peated version of Glen Keith
which was made in the traditional way, with peated malted barley.
After being mothballed in 1999, the Glen Keith distillery was
'officially' reopened in on June 14, 2013 - although some say
that the production of malt whisky had actually started again a
little earlier in April. Compared to the 'old' Glen Keith distillery,
the production capacity has almost doubled to 6,000,000 litres
of pure alcohol per year.