The former Scottish distillery Imperial was once one of the many facilities in Scotland’s Speyside region where one could find single malts being made. Opened in 1897, it saw periodic use by its owners as the decades rolled by, eventually coming into the hands Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers. It was shuttered for a final time in 1998 and demolished a few years back. Now, rising from its ashes is a new whisky making operation known as Dalmunach.
The Dalmunach Distillery, according to Chivas Brothers, is a £25m state-of-the-art operation named after the nearby pool in the River Spey on whose banks the new facility sits. It will, when it at full capacity, produce up to 10 million liters of whisky a year that, in turn, will raise its owner’s malt whisky distillation capacity by 17% “as it looks to support long-term global demand for its brands.”
Whisky produced from Dalmunach seems destined for being part of blended Scotch, versus a straight single malt, as it was indicated it will be used for the likes of Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute. There was no immediate mention of how long the whiskey being produced here might be aged before it finds its way into any of the blends.
The distillery, for its part, looks to be quite pleasing to the eye from a visual perspective. Chivas Brothers said of it that the architecture “has been inspired by the shape of a sheaf of barley reflecting the core ingredient of single malt whisky. It houses eight unique copper pot stills, with a tulip shape used for the wash stills and an onion shape used for the spirit stills, replicating those from the Imperial distillery which was situated on the site from 1897 until 2012. In a departure from tradition, the stills have been positioned in a circular design that provides a unique aesthetic for the future.”
Other original features from the previous distillery have been carefully incorporated to ensure a sense of heritage remains intact. Red brick from the original mill building has been reclaimed to create a feature wall in the new entrance area, and wood from the original washbacks has been used to form an entrance ‘drum’ and adorn the gable walls of the new tun room which contains 16 new stainless steel washbacks. A new 9.5m diameter mashtun has been installed which draws spring water for production from the site’s original water sources. Dalmunach also features a unique hexagonal spirit safe housing four safes with a waterfall feature which is a first in the Scotch whisky industry.”
Those wanting to visit Dalmunach will sadly be out of luck, as it is not open to visitors. It will, however, “be visible from the nearby Speyside Way walking trail. Great care has been taken to ensure the external façade of the distillery is in-keeping with its surrounding environment and the traditional architectural style of the region, thus providing an interesting and fitting new viewpoint for passers-by.”
And, in a related note, the opening of Dalmunach signals the end of the long career of one Douglas Cruickshank, who stepped back from his role as Chivas Brothers’ production director two years ago to concentrate on the new build until its completion. Cruickshank, who is now retiring, had his career, ironically enough, begin at the age of 15 at Imperial.
“All the people involved are justifiably proud of their part in this very successful project,” said Cruickshank in a statement. “Dalmunach is a shining example of the collaboration of many functions within Chivas pooling their knowledge, experience and creativity to deliver a modern distillery that has surpassed all expectations in respect of visual impact, plant performance, energy efficiency and spirit quality.”