Aberlour Distillery lies in the village of Aberlour next to a small stream named Lour and 300 metres from the river Spey. The close proximity to the river has given name to both the village and the distillery; Aberlour means ‘mouth of the noisy burn’. The Aberlour Distillery was founded in 1879 by the former grain dealer James Fleming who had gained distilling experience from being a lessee of the Dailuaine Distillery. Fleming had already proven to be a good businessman and the newspapers gave the new distillery a lot of press. Another reason for the interest of the media was the fact that the distillery was completely powered with water from the river Spey. The transmission must have worked very well since Aberlour remained water powered until 1960. When production began in November 1880 the annual capacity was 300 000 litres.
In 1892 Fleming who approached the age of 60 years sold the distillery to Robert Thorne & Sons. The sale did not end Fleming from taking an active part in the community; he built a community hall for the people of Aberlour and after his death he donated money to build a hospital and a bridge across the river Spey at the exact location where some village school children had drowned a few years earlier.
After the purchase the new owners immediately began to increase production efficiency. Unfortunately much of their hard work was destroyed in 1898 when most of the original Aberlour distillery burned down. The fire started in the malting facility and quickly spread to strike the buildings which housed the washbacks, the mash tun and the stills. It took six months and a staggering £6 000 to repair the damages. Luckily for the owners the distillery had been insured.
WW1 and WW2 were hard on Aberlour as well as on most other distilleries and production repeatedly had to be shut down for long periods of time. In 1945 Aberlour was bought by Campbell’s Distillers Ltd. A time of expansion now followed for Aberlour who began exporting to the rest of Europe and to the USA. In the mid-sixties Aberlour produced whisky nine months of the year which added up to an annual output of more than one million litres. The distillery Manager Ian Mitchell realised that the distillery had to expand to meet the increasing demand. This resulted in an extensive £6 million renovation and expansion in 1973. As a result production was doubled with e.g. the installation of four additional stills. One year later Pernod Ricard acquired Campbell’s Distillers Ltd and became the new owners of Aberlour. Aberlour’s popularity increased during the 80s and the 90s and their whisky received several awards. In 2002 the Aberlour visitor centre was inaugurated and the distillery was opened to the public.
Production at Aberlour
Aberlour use water from the St Drostan’s Well which is located on the grounds. The water that falls on the mountain Ben Rinnes is filtered through layers of peat before it reaches the well. Since the mountain is made mostly of granite very few minerals are picked up during the process which explains why the water is so soft. The water is neutral with a pH level of 7.
The cooling water is taken from the river Spey which runs close by. The water temperature is continually monitored before it is released back into the river in order to avoid any unwanted effects on the environment. The barley is bought from central malting companies and is slightly peated to less than 3 ppm. Aberlour buys 90 percent of their barley in Scotland.
The mash tun is made from stainless steel and holds 12 tons. The six wooden washbacks each hold 60 000 litres. After the washbacks have been filled with the wort drawn from the mash tun eight 25-kilo bags of yeast are added to each washback. After the 48 hour fermentation process the wash has reached an alcohol level of approximately 8.5 percent.
The onion-shaped wash stills are heated with internal steam coils. Each wash still holds 14 900 litres of wash. The Low Wine that is the result of the first distillation has an alcohol content of 23 percent. The two slightly smaller spirit stills are also steam-heated. The Aberlour spirit stills start producing the ‘Heart of the run’ (the raw spirit that will be used for whisky) after about twenty minutes. The Heart flows for approximately two hours and produces an average alcohol content of 70 percent. The raw spirit is cut down with water to 63.5 percent before it is filled into bourbon and sherry casks. The whisky is stored on site in six warehouses with a total capacity of 25 000 casks. Bottling is done in Killwinning, Ayrshire. The annual output of the Aberlour Distillery is 3 million litres.
Banffshire, AB38 9PJ
Phone: +44 (0) +44 (0) 1340 881249
Visitors: A new and modern visitor centre was inaugurated in 2002. The visitor centre is open April – the first week of November on Monday-Saturday between 10am-5pm and between 1.30pm-5pm on Sunday. No food is served at the visitor centre. Guided tours begin at 10.30am and 2pm, Monday to Saturday, and at 11.30am and 3pm on Sunday. Please note that the tours are by appointment only. The tour season lasts from Monday 29th March to Friday 29th October. The tickets cost £7.50 per person. At the end of the tour you may bottle your very own Aberlour malt for £50. The gift shop also has a full selection of Aberlour bottlings.
To book a place at the tour, call +44 (0)1340 881 249 or make an email reservation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Owner: Chivas Brothers Ltd / Pernod Ricard