Glen Keith

Glen Keith has been making soft, distinctive, high-quality Speyside malt whisky for decades, and these have been reserved for premium blended whiskeys and rare cask releases. The Distillery Edition is the first single malt edition from the distillery, which is available on the market at an affordable price.

The Glen Keith distillery is located at the Linn of Keith, on the Isla River. It is a historic site, once the stronghold of the Ogilvies of Milton, one of Scotland’s ancient clans.

Glen Keith Whisky

Glen Keith can be found in the village of Keith, on the banks of the Isla River, opposite the Strathisla distillery.

House Style

What does Glen Keith single malt taste like?With a Glen Keith you can expect floral notes. Clear vanilla and fruit notes are also typical of the style of this distillery.

While there was a 10 year old bottling released as a single malt in 1994 it was never a front line malt. There are occasional sightings of it (and its peated offering Glen Isla) from independent bottlers.

Manufacturing

How is Glen Keith whisky produced?Glen Keith has a production capacity of 6 million liters annually using 6 stills and double distillation. The distillery’s water comes from the Balloch Hill spring. The malt for the distillery is produced in-house and also supplies the Strathisla Distillery with the required malt via a pressure line.

In addition to the malt, Glen Keith also produces the yeast for the fermentation process itself. Glen Keith Whisky is mainly used for blends. Until 1994, this was also the exclusive use. Only with the Heritage Selection was the first owner of single malt filling on the market. This came on the shelves without an indication of age, but with the statement ‘Distilled before 1983’. Before the Heritage Selection existed, Glen Keith Single Malt was only marketed by independent bottlers. A special mention should also be made here to Gordon & MacPhail, who had a peated malt produced by Glen Keith. The malt, which was bottled under the name of Glenisla, was special in that the malt, not peat, but water treated with peat smoke was used for the peat.

History

When American lawmakers enacted the Volstead Act in 1920, it brought Prohibition to the US. Sam Bronfman and his brother Harry extended their already prohibition boozoriums along the southern Saskatchewan border. Until the Canadian closed these export warehouses sales to rum-runners from the northern US were both legal and very lucrative. Enough for him to create Distillers Corporation Limited the forerunner of Seagram.

In 1950, with Chivas, Passport and 100 Pipers demand skyrocketing Seagram, under the direction of Sam Bronfman, took over the Milltown/Milton distillery (now known as Strathisla). To boost production further Seagram converted the former grain mill directly behind to build the Glen Keith distillery in 1957. This made Glen Keith the first distillery to be founded in Scotland in the 20th century. And in 1970 the number of stills was increased from 3 to 5 and the Saladin box maltings were closed in 1976, though left standing.

Unusually for a Speyside distillery Glen Keith was triple distilled until the 1970s. Glen Keiths malt was primarily used to blend into the Chivas Brothers’ blends, but the distillery was also used as an experimental site. Something of an innovator Glen Keith stills were the first in Scotland to be directly heated with gas. Glen Keith also started using computer technology early on. Glen Keith was also the first distillery in Scotland to experiment with automatic mashing in the 1980’s.

Glen Keith whisky was exclusive used for blends until 1994 outwith the independent bottlers. The Heritage Selection was the first owner of single malt bottling for the market, released without an age statement, but declaring ‘Distilled before 1983’ on the labels.

Before the Heritage Selection was launched, Glen Keith Single Malt was only marketed by independent bottlers. A special mention should be made to Gordon & MacPhail, who had Glen Keith produce a peated malt. The whisky, which was bottled under the name of Glenisla (after the river, rather than the island), was special in that it was not the malt, but the water treated with peat smoke.

In 1999 Glen Keith was mothballed, a victim of overcapacity. The takeover by Pernod Ricard followed two years later. During 2012 the old Saladin maltings were ripped out leaving room for a huge full lauter mash tun and an additional six stainless steel washbacks. The stills were refurbished and the original nine wooden washbacks were replaced. With reconstruction and refurbishment finished production finally resuming in summer 2013.

Distillery Factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Glen Keith glen keeth Speyside Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Closed 1958 - Present Malt Glen Keith Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Alan Winchester Pernod Ricard

Glen Keith Timeline:

1957-60: Built on the site of a corn-mill by Chivas Bros. Ltd., subsidiary of Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Ltd. of Canada. Originally three stills (designed for triple distillation). First new malt distillery in Scotland since the late Victorian boom

1970: Extended from three to five stills

1970-Sep: First gas-fired still in Scotland was commissioned here

1973: Stills became steamheated

1980: A microprocessor was installed to control milling, mashing, and eventually distilling

1999: Owned by Chivas Brothers

2004: Owned by Chivas Brothers