Thursday, April 10, 2014
Resurrecting Closed Distilleries: So Many to Choose From
The results of this week's reader poll asking which closed distillery people would magically resurrect are in and they are....all over the map. There were certainly some votes for predictable favorites like Brora, Port Ellen and Stitzel-Weller, but there were a wide range of suggestions including Lochside, Millburn, Ben Wyvis, Old Hermitage, Karuizawa, Monumental (home of Maryland's Pikesville Rye), Samuel Dillinger (PA), A. Guckenheimer (also PA), Oscar Pepper, Old Taylor, John's Lane, and even someone's grandfather's moonshine still. Reading the comments was a kick, so many thanks to all of the very creative commenters.
As one commenter pointed out, for many of these distilleries, it's hard to know what the whiskey would have tasted like when the distillery was operating since, for Scotch in particular, the only exposure most of us have had to them are super aged indie bottlings. Indeed, for many of the closed Scotch distilleries, nearly 100% of their production went into blends (which was fairly typical of all malts back when most of them closed). Who's to say that if Caol Ila and not Port Ellen had closed in 1983 we wouldn't now be wishing against all hope that it could reopen because of all the great, super-old and rare Caol Ila we'd have tasted? I've tried one of the standard, Japanese releases of Karuizawa, and while it was good, it tasted nothing like the old sherry monsters that have been released by the Number One Drinks Company which bought all of the old stocks when the distillery closed.
With American whiskey, we have a bit more of a sense due to the availability of dusties. Surely, though, the general perception of Pennco/Michter's is almost wholly shaped by the A.H. Hirsch bourbons which consisted of a one-time run that is not likely representative of the distillery as a whole.
Interestingly, there were lots of prominent distilleries that didn't receive any votes, including Rosebank, St. Magdelene, Glenugie, Hanyu, Caperdonich...and Malt Mill.
Thanks for playing!