Caperdonich built originally as Glen Grant B is one of the many distilleries in the village of Rothes which are now closed. The Caperdonich malt mill now resides in the newly reopened Annandale distillery.
How did Caperdonich taste?
The single malts from Caperdonich have never come close to reaching the reputation of the single malts from Glen Grant however they have achieved a limited fanbase, especially true in recent years as stock from lost distilleries are now prized among drinkers and collectors alike. The ultimate loss of this distillery could even go completely unnoticed for many whiskey drinkers. And the demolition of Caperdonich wasn’t even worth a few lines to the local press. So Caperdonich was really treated and marketed like an ugly duckling.
Founded in the small town of Rothes, directly opposite the traditional Glen Grant Distillery, which had began its service in 1840. Caperdonich founded in 1898 was the first Scottish distillery that was built almost on the exact model of the original to produce the same style of whisky. The success of Glen Grant A at the time was so great that the owners established the second replica plant to quickly increase the production capacity.
Unfortunately Glen Grant B was planned and built (1897) at a time when whisky sales seemed to be booming, alas this was an artificial bubble created in part by the manipulations of the Pattison brothers. Follwing the fallout from which, commonly known as the Pattison whisky crash Glen Grant B quickly ceased production in 1901 only 3 years of production. Glen Grant B was doomed to serve as a spare parts store for its older sister and later also as a reserve malt house, production would not resume until 1965.
During the distilleries initial 3 year active period a now infamous whisky pipe ran between the two distilleries. This was a consequence of British tax regulation which required new make produced in a distillery extention to flow through the same spirit safe as the main distillery. Although the pipeline was not dismantled until the 1980s, it was only ever used up until 1901.
It was not until growing demand for Scotch whisky in the 1960s that the then owners Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd. came up with the idea of resuming production. Expanding production on the Glen Grant site would have been uneconomical as the space-consuming floor maltings was still in operation. Resuming production at Glen Grant B was ultimately cheaper and more practical however a change in tax law meant that it was not possible for spirit from the new (old) distillery to be sold under the Glen Grant brand. While production was geared towards blends this was initially not a concern until 1977 when the distillery was officially renamed Caperdonich (meaning secret well).
Almost 1.6 million liters of alcohol were distilled at Caperdonich in its first year but that wasn’t enough. In 1967 production was expanded. A new building was added for more washbacks and the production facilities were upgraded and automated to such a degree the only 2 workers could control the brewing and distilling operation from consoles. Although the theoretical production capacity was almost doubled by the inclusion of a new wash still and a new spirit still. Even at this scale the onsite maltings were such that until 1971 they could still supply a third of the malt. he remaining malt was bought in from Robert Hutchison & Co. of Kirkaldy and other malt houses. After 1971 the malting drums, which Major Grant had installed at Glen Grant in 1898, were finally turned offbringing and end to both peating and malting at Caperdonich.
Since 1967 the stills have also been heated by steam, which has given them a technical lead of around a decade over Glen Grant and other distilleries in Scotland. The wash stills had a cylindrical flared neck and were very similar to the smaller stills from Glen Grant, although they could hold 360 liters less. In contrast to those of Glen Grant, the spirit stills had a spherical condensation zone, which could partly explain the slightly different taste of Caperdonich. In general, Caperdonich is considered to be a light and fruity whiskey, but it is also described as a little “edgier” than that of Glen Grant.
In 1970, The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distilleries merged with Longmorn Glenlivet Distillers and Edinburgh-based Blender Hill Thomsom & Co. The name The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. was only introduced in 1972. Longmorn and Benriach joined the Caperdonich family with Glen Grant and The Glenlivet. The new consortium now had all the important functions including blenders and filling systems under one roof for the production and distribution of whisky.
Acquired by Seagram
Seagram took over The Glenlivet Distillers on January 31, 1978, the world’s largest alcoholic beverage manufacturer of its time. The sale of Glen Grant and Caperdonich was economically necessary in order to be able to continue to grow and remain competitive. At the same time, a buyer had been found in Seagram, or more precisely the British subsidiary of the Canadian company, who was also the distilleries’ best customer. And it was agreed that the management structures would be retained. Around this time the cooperage of Glen Grant and Caperdonich with its 11 employees around the veteran Allan Clark (with Glen Grant since 1928) was closed. However it must also be said that the coopers had not built any new barrels in the previous years, but only inspected and repaired barrels from blenders and bottlers.
Although the first single malts were bottled in 1977, Seagram used the matured distillates from Caperdonich almost exclusively in the blends Chivas Regal, Queen Anne, Passport and Something Special. It is possible that the quality of Caperdonich’s whiskey was only average at this time, so that it was not officially marketed as a single malt. That could also have been the reason why Seagram decided in 1985 to adapt the shape of the stills to once again match those of Glen Grant.
The Pernod Ricard years
The end for Caperdonich came in 2002 after the Scottish part of Seagram had been taken over by Pernod Ricard the year before. Under the new owners, the distillery only produced for a few months. When it closed, Caperdonich was comprised of a mash tun made of stainless steel with a copper cap that could hold 4.6 tons of mash. The 8 fermentation vats (wash backs, 2 made of stainless steel, 6 made of cast iron) each held 23,000 liters. The 2 wash stills were 11,500 liters each, the 2 spirit stills 8,000 liters each. At this point in time they were indirectly heated with electricity. Most recently, the production capacity of Caperdonich was around 2,200,000 liters of alcohol per year.
For Pernod Ricard, restarting production was apparently not up for discussion. Alan Winchester, who worked for the Chivas Brothers for years, once stated that Caperdonich was too small and that after the takeover a number of pieces of production equipment, such as the compressors, were installed in other distilleries in the group. Caperdonich became a spare parts store again. Ultimately, after many years of downtime, in 2009 Perod-Ricard sold parts of the distillery premises to a neighbor, the well-known coppersmith from Speyside, Forsyths. These razed parts of the Caperdonich building in 2010 and used the site, among other things, as an external warehouse, also for medium-term storage of Caperdonich’s technical equipment.
In 2013, following a tip from Jim McEwan, who was employed at Bruichladdich at the time, two modernized stills and the Spirit Safe were sold to The Belgian Owl distillery in Liège to replace their old alambic kettles from Switzerland. Together with Mash Tun from Caperdonich, the other pair of stills produces the distillate in the new Falkirk Distillery. It’s nice that Forsyths’ original plan to melt down the 4 stills didn’t work out. The old Porteus flour mill from Caperdonich has been working in the new Annandale distillery since 2014 and three of the washbacks and a few small parts (such as oak rails on which barrels are rolled) are now in service in the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland, the Wolfburn Distillery. Only a few warehouses are still in use today.
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Closed||1898 - Present||Malt||Caperdonich||Not Available|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
1898: Distillery built as Glen Grant No.2 Distillery, across the road from Glen Grant No.1 Distillery
1902: Production is stopped due to the fallout from the Pattison whisky crash
1965: Production resumes to help supply demand for Glen Grant
1967: Extended from two to four stills, all of which became all steamheated. A new still shape is introduced. New washbacks added
1977: Taken over by the Seagram Company Ltd. of Canada and renaming Caperdonich
1985: The original still shape is reintroduced
2001: Sold to Pernod Ricard
2002: Together with Allt-á-Bhainne, Braeval (Braes of Glenlivet) and BenRiach the distillery is closed and sold to Forthyth's Coppersmith
2011: The plant was dismantled and the equipment was sold off
Interesting Caperdonich links:
Can I tour Caperdonich?
No, unfortunately Caperdonich distillery is not open to the public for tours