Edradour Distillery

Entrance to Edradour Distillery

Edradour Distillery is made up of a group of picturesque white-washed buildings at Milton of Edradour, two miles (3 km) east of Pitlochry in Perthshire. The name of the distillery comes from the burn that flows between the buildings, separating the distillery and the visitors shop and offices. It claims to be the smallest distillery in Scotland, and has an annual output of only 240,000 bottles. Edradour Distillery still uses its original still-house and boasts the only old-style refrigerated wort cooler in use today.

The Distillery Buildings

The last original farm distillery in Perthshire, it nestles in a glen of the hills above Pitlochry in the Southern Highlands. The breathtaking scenic surroundings of Edradour distillery that was built in the early nineteenth century have remained unchanged in the last 170 years.

The Malt House

The whitewashed buildings with red doors are very picturesque and Victorian. Inside the distillery too very little has changed. They still use the same wooden equipment to mash and ferment the whisky as in the past. It has the smallest copper stills as permissible by law, naturally the smallest in Scotland. The original Morton refrigerator is the only one of its type functioning in the country.

Edradour Distillery is probably the smallest legal distillery in the world. In the days when whisky distilling was literally a cottage industry a farmer cooperative to distill whisky was started in 1825. The still was the smallest legally permissible at the time, a capacity of 40 gallons unchanged till today.

Distilling in the Highlands was for many centuries carried out by a large number of very small-scale, usually illegal, stills in farms, caves or wherever else they could find that was hidden from the vigilant excise men and the troops that supported them. Everything changed with the Excise Act of 1823, which allowed small Highland distilleries to compete on equal terms with the increasingly industrial Lowland distillers. The 1823 Act also introduced a minimum legal size for a still, just large enough to be difficult to transport and hide. The stills at Edradour are the smallest in any distillery in Scotland, and just above the minimum size allowed in the Act.

The distillery came into being, as a legal operation at least, in 1825. It is one of the most beautifully arranged distilleries in Scotland, comprising a neat whitewashed collection of buildings located in a small rising valley, either side of the burn that provides its water. In mid 2002 the burn provided rather too much water, washing away most of the garden and car park after very heavy rain. Both have since been made good.

View from the car park looking towards the Distillery

Entry here is free and visitors are greeted with a wee dram. This is followed by a tour of the distillery and a description of its history. The barley peat and pure water which are the essential ingredients of Highland malt whisky are found in abundance here. The "standard" single malt now produced by Edradour is a ten-year-old, a highly rated Highland malt that for us carries a distinct and attractive overtone of the salt and seaweed much more characteristic of an island whisky. You can find out more about Making Malt Whisky from our series of feature pages showing the stages in the process.

One result of this was that when the cargo ship the SS Politician struck rocks just off the north shore of Eriskay in the Western Isles on 5 February 1941, en route to New York, a significant proportion of the content of the 264,000 bottles of Scotch Whisky in its hold was produced at Edradour Distillery. As soon as the crew were safe, the islanders set to work saving the cargo. It is thought that over 2,000 cases or 24,000 bottles were liberated before the authorities arrived on the scene. In the aftermath police and customs officers searched the entire island and several islanders were actually jailed for theft, not something advertised in Compton Mackenzie's best selling 1947 novel "Whisky Galore" based on the story of the SS Politician.

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