There are quite a few lost distilleries, and I’m not talking about the lost distilleries of yesteryear, Like Towiemore, Scarnish or Glendarroch, rather of those distilleries that were lost in my own lifetime, in the big whisky loch of the 1980s. Some distilleries are household names and are still regularly bottled today, like Port Ellen and Brora, while others have passed into oblivion like Glenugie or Ladyburn.
Obviously, closed distilleries get a lot of interest, and in this year’s whisky show there was a masterclass dedicated to six of these closed distilleries, aptly titled “Gone But Never Forgotten” let by Diageo’s rockstar ambassador Colin Dunn, where six of them were tasted. I wrote about the masterclass itself in my post on the second day of The Whisky Show (read it here).
Millburn is a particular distillery that is hard to find, as it has never been bottled regularly. There have been a few official bottlings by Diageo in the Rare Malt Selection series (namely three 1975 expressions, two of which were two versions of the same 18 year old bottled in 1995 at 58.9% and at 58.8% (so obviously they were bottled before 1995), and in 2001 at 25 years with 61.9% ABV, alongside a 1969 which was bottled in 2005 at 35 year old, at 51.2%), and some independent bottlings (Several by Gordon and MacPhail, a few by Italian bottlers and the last bottling I was able to track down was a Blackadder bottled in 2007). There have been no bottlings since 2007, and Colin stated that Diageo has no stocks left. At all. Of course, it’s possible that Gordon and MacPhail might still have a cask somewhere, but it will be 30 years old this year at the very least, and given its scarcity, it would seem reasonable to assume that it would have been bottled by now. But hey, these guys still have stocks from 1940, so anything is possible in Elgin.
In Inverness, there were 27 distilleries at one point or another, and Millburn was the last of them, being closed in 1985, two years after Glen Albyn and Glen Mohr. The buildings of the distillery still stand today, and serve as a hotel and restaurant. The distillery itself had a single pair of stills, which limited production to about 300,000 liters per year, basically all of which went into various blends.
Expressions from Millburn are a challenge to come by, and if you have a chance to have a taste, don’t push it off. Bottles are really scarce!
Rare Malts Selection 1975 Millburn (58.9% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold, thick and slow legs with a lot of residue.
Nose: Cereal (really like the malted barley you smell on distillery tours), walnut, whole wheat bread, dusty oldness, polished oak and quite a bit of wood spice (more woodsy spices like clove and cinnamon, but not specifically distinct as such).
Palate: Dried fruit (prunes and dates) and deep red fruit mash (blackcurrant, blueberries and cranberries), with a dryness and an oakiness.
Linger: Dry, long in the back of the throat, a hint of sweetness on the tongue and a lot of dryness that stays on and on.
This was one of my favorite drams in the tasting, definitely in the top three together with the St. Magdalene’s and the Convalmore. Shame it’s impractical to delve deeper into this distillery….
Colin, thanks for the pictures of the distilleries from the Diageo Archives!