Silent Distillery Profile; Caperdonich – Scotch Whisky History

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Silent Distillery Profile; Caperdonich (Capper-don-ick or kapperDOHnich) 

by Lawrence Graham

Operational: 1898-2002 but silent from 1902 to 1965

Region: Speyside

Neighbors: Glen Grant

Address: Rothes, Morayshire, AB38 7BS

Last Owner: as of December 2001, Chivas Brothers Ltd, Groupe Pernod Ricard. 

The name Caperdonich means ‘the secret well’ and this distillery is most commonly known as Glen Grant Number 2 (until 1965) and Customs & Excise insisted that the make be piped over the road to Glen Grant Number 1 which was located directly across the street. This pipe became famous as the ‘whisky pipe’ and the locals were not adverse to drilling holes in the pipe to liberate some spirit.   

Caperdonich was originally built by Major Grant in 1898 due to increasing demand however its early production life was short lived because in 1902 it was shut down and much of the equipment was transferred to Glen Grant as spares. I have read that the stills at Caperdonich were the same as those at Glen Grant, as was the water source and the supplier of malt yet Caperdonich never attained the quality of Glen Grant. 

The collapse of the firm of Pattisons of Leith contributed to a general slow down in the industry and during this period the number of operating distilleries in Scotland fell from a high of 191 to a low of 132 in 1908. 

In 1965 after a very lengthy silent period of nearly 65 years Caperdonich was rebuilt by the Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distillers Ltd and was soon producing whisky once again and in its first year produced 350,000 gallons of spirit. This reopening coincided with a general expansion of capacity in the industry. 

Soon after in 1967 the distillery was expanded by the installation of two new steam heated pot stills, a modern tun room and the latest technology which allowed the distillery to be operated by a staff of only two. About a third of the malt required by produced at Glen Grant and the remainder was brought in thus no barley or peat was on site. 

In 1977 the distillery was taken over by Seagram’s of Canada Limited. In its short operating life Caperdonich never developed the reputation as a quality malt and was destined to be hidden away in the various blends of Chivas Regal, Queen Anne, Something Special and Passport. 

Caperdonich was never bottled as a single malt and it was only offered to the market by the independents of Gordon & MacPhail, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Cadenheads. Through my research into the history of Caperdonich I read again and again of unflattering descriptions of the whisky but I firmly believe that any Scottish distillery is or was capable of producing whiskies that would score over 90 points. In the case of Caperdonich this is evidenced by 3 casks as reviewed by Jim Murray in his 2006 Whisky Bible; Members Legacy 1967 Aged 36 years cask no. 4945 95 points, Members Legacy 1967 Aged 36 years cask no. 4947 96 points and Douglas Laing Platinum Old and Rare Caperdonich Aged 36 years 96 points. To quote the author in regard to the Platinum Old and Rare Caperdonich…… “Awesome. So there we have it. A distillery that can’t live day to day because its general spirit is so average can, in the right conditions, offer one of the greatest whisky experiences on Earth. Such is the beauty and tragedy of whisky.  

Sources: The Scottish Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo, The Scotch Whisky Industry Record by H Charles Craig, The Making of Scotch Whisky by Hume & Moss and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006.

This article was originally published on the Malt Maniacs website and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

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