Pittyvaich 1989 – 20 Year Old


Pittyvaich represents a lacuna in my whisky reviewing on Malt, so I thought it about time to rectify the matter. That said, you’ll do well to meet a fan of Pittyvaich distillery, and this is for two reasons. The first is that it is a closed distillery, and when it was open it wasn’t actually open for all that long. Between 1974 and 1993, in fact, and the distillery was finally demolished in 2002. The second reason is that Pittyvaich was a bit shit. Even its name stands for “place of the cow shed”, which does not exactly suggest a Highland romance.

When Pittyvaich’s stills were flowing with spirit, its whisky was destined for blending with Arthur Bell & Sons. Or rather, it was actually built so that Bell’s would have enough malt whisky to swap with other blenders. Pittyvaich distillery was said to have used short fermentation times, which is short-hand for: this place really is a blending monkey, and we don’t really care about the quality of what we’re making. Good, flavoursome whisky depends upon longer fermentation periods. Although in its final moments it was used as a place of experimentation to test new distilling methods and barley varieties, so any whisky that’s materialised from those days is going to vary completely in quality.

I’ve actually been to Pittyvaich, or rather the site where it once stood. There’s now a much more useful bit of square land there instead.

Pittyvaich Distillery

A square of rubble is all that remains. This is actually land just above Dufftown, and it’s suffocated by dark-walled warehousing facilities and those quirky, blackened mould-caked trees that linger eerily in a vaguely apocalyptic manner outside of every warehouse in Scotland. It’s worth a wander up there to capture the mood. I remember at the time drinking a Flora & Fauna Pittyvaich whilst at Pittyvaich, and then spitting it out on the ground because it wasn’t very good at all. And that’s pretty much the legacy of this distillery – a bunch of whiskies (if you can find them) that generally are not very good at all.

Today’s bottle came as part of Diageo’s 2009 Special Releases. It’s a 20-year-old that comes at cask strength, and was limited to 6,000 bottles. Expect to pay upward of £100 at auction these days. A sample of it came to my hands via my good colleague Whisky Rover.

Pittyvaich 20 Year Old 1989

Pittyvaich 20 Year Old 1989 Tasting Notes

Colour: pale gold. Not very active wood here.

On the nose: very straightforward notes of vanilla, cream and citrus. Maybe lime juice, and it’s slightly herbal and vegetative. Weetabix. Opens up to more tropical notes, mango, peaches, pineapple. Then it becomes rather floral, with notes of green tomatoes and Parmaviolets. Not unpleasant by any means, but not very sophisticated.

In the mouth: there are echoes of the nose at first, with dominance of the grassy end of things. Green grass and straw, with a little cabbage and some more herbs (mixed, maybe with a hint of oregano), with floral honey. And the fruits linger about in the green apple end of things, but followed by a lot of sharp grapefruit. Limes as well, which skew things towards the acidic somewhat. Indeed, any light touches and perfumed hints are dumped on by this nail varnish-y, bitter metallic nonsense that pervades the whisky, clashing with the sharp fruits. Too acidic, way too unbalanced.


Rubbish distillery.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Chris says:

    Brilliant review Mark, I tried the Pittyvaich at last years diageo tasting and just found it so dull!

    Love the conclusion by the way

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