The loss of any distillery is a significant blow but for many the closure and demolition of Pittyvaich near Dufftown, was a cause of celebration. The distillery was established in 1975 by Arthur Bell & Sons to support its obvious needs for the blended Scotch market.
Pittyvaich is often referred to as a sister distillery to Dufftown which is literally just a couple of minutes walk from its former site. For some enthusiasts this is a formidable relationship forged in the depths of hell, as #thetormore4 often refer to Dufftown as dirty dirty Dufftown. Pittyvaich was built with that sole purpose of producing spirit and little thought was given for any aesthetics. The distillery closed for good in 1993 before being demolished in 2002.
This is where the photographs on this article come into play; I visited the site as part of Michelle’s superb Dufftown distillery walking tour. Here you can see where Pittyvaich once stood amongst the warehouses of Dufftown. All traces of the distillery have been scrubbed from history however you can appreciate this wasn’t a massive producer given the size of the site.
What does remain are the few bottlings of Pittyvaich that were released. The debut official malt was the Flora & Fauna in 1991. Needless to say its nothing memorable although its price continues to rise at auction, it still remains affordable fetching less than £150. DCL which merged Bells in the 1980’s and therefore acquired Pittyvaich was the forerunner to what we know as Diageo today.
Last year as part of the annual Diageo Special releases a 1989 25 year old Pittyvaich was released making it only the third from the distillery. It’s still widely available at retail for £250 which isn’t a surprise given how the distillery and its output quality are viewed today. Just short of 6000 bottles I expect it’ll be around for sometime still. That’s what I’m planning anyway as I’ve yet to add a Pittyvaich to my closed distillery collection. Signatory and Cadenheads have released single cask bottlings previously but these have dried up in recent years. Pittyvaich therefore is a rarely bottled single malt today.
This takes us onto the other official bottling of Pittyvaich. Released in 2009 it’s the second of the trio, bottled at 20 years of age, 57.5% strength and a limited edition of 6000. I purchased a sample from Sjoerd who is responsible for Malt Fascination and please go check out his site and varied reviews. Bottle sharing can open up new avenues and reduce costs. In the form of Pittyvaich it also limits any potential damage to your wallet and palate. If I was to nominmate my most disliked distilleries – an axis of evil if you will – then Pittyvaich would certainly be on the list.
Colour: morning dew on grass
Nose: rustic initial impression with almonds, lime and those pineapple cube sweets laced in sugar. It’s light and fragrant with a touch of spice including thyme and faintly dried juniper berries. Barley sweets yes, with water more oak and a touch of candle wax or paraffin.
Taste: oh my, that’s a rough uncompromising experience. This is the Pittyvaich I fear. After that initial foray, my palate is somewhat blunted and more receptive to a second attempt. A touch of lime and sandpaper certainly in what is a coarse test of endurance. The wood dominates what must be a very neutral spirit. Lets try a splash of water and hope for a metamorphosis… Amazing, the water blunts some of the character just leaving that alcohol burn on the fringes of my palate. Truly an anti-remarkable whisky. I’ve endured some gut-rot from foreign countries and this can stand tall with the best of them.
Overall: the promise of the nose was destroyed by the palate. Two decades in a cask results in this? That’s the fundamental flaw with Pittyvaich – created to be blended, on its own is just struggles to offer anything other than disappointment. You have been warned.