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Whisky review

The Edradour Distillery

This is just the time of year to settle down with a good book and a decent dram. The story of "Whisky Galore", written by Compton Mackenzie, tells the true story of the foundering of "S S Politician", laden with both liquid and solid gold, on the rocks of Eriskay, in 1941. There were 22,000 cases of Edradour whisky on board, bound for America, some 24,000 bottles being rescued by the islanders before the authorities turned up.

One 84 year old crofter had his state pension cut as punishment for involvement in the escapade. A small price to pay. Nineteenth century Perthshire crofters were responsible for the Edradour whisky in the first place, this being the last of the original farm-based distilleries still working.

In 1825 a loose-knit group of eight small farmers formalised their working relationship under the auspices of John McGlashan, producing distillers malt only at a miil quite close to the present 1837 built complex. The name, Eadar da Dhobhar, between two waters, probably referred to the scope of the holdings, on the hillsides a mile east of Pitlochry. Not only is Edradour the tiniest of our distilleries, it has a pair of stills that are so small they are barely legal. The distillery is operated by only three men, distilling as much spirit in a year as other establishments will produce in a month. This works out at an outrun of 12 - 15 casks in their five day working week. No distilling during July and August, when it is too warm to produce spirit effectively.

The all important soft water comes from a spring at Mhoulin Muir, on Ben Vrackie, actually running down through the heart of the distillery on its way to the River Tummel. The locally grown Optic barley is malted near Edinburgh, the Edradour kiln and malting buildings now serving as a visitor centre. If the two stills were any smaller they would be deemed illegal by Customs and Excise, but it is this factor which greatly contributes to the distinctive qualities of Edradour whiskies. Total fermentation time is 56 hours, the new-make spirit charged into Oloroso casks (Spanish oak) and Bourbon casks (American white oak). Edradour bond their stock at Dalmuir, space being very much at a premium at this distillery.

Recently a wider range of whiskies have become available from Edradour, including an expression that is very heavily peated. With an Islay man at the helm, this is not at all surprising. The standard Edradour is their 10 year-old, described as a rich, fat malt with a somewhat dry finish. While most of the whisky is bottled as single malt, Edradour is a component of Glenforres, a 12 year-old vatted malt (no added grain whisky). Edradour also contributes to Clan Campbell and House of Lords blends. This extremely picturesque distillery, with its white-washed buildings is the third most popular with visitors, and not only is admission free, a dram is thrown in for good measure.

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