Aberfeldy Distillery was originally commissioned to supply John Dewar & Sons with the ‘heart malt’ for their now hugely successful blends.
In September 1896 The Victualling Trades’ Review wrote: “We learn that Messrs Dewar & Sons, Limited Perth and London, have taken a site on the estate of the Marquis of Breadalbane, near Aberfeldy, to erect a distillery capable of turning out 200,000 gallons per annum. The site is a good one, as there is a railway siding in the grounds, and the water supply is received from the Borlich Burn [today known as the Pitilie Burn] which is always full, even in the driest summer. The water has been carefully analysed, and has proved to be of the best quality for distilling purposes.”
As the Aberfeldy 21 Years Old’s carton reminds us, the burn is rich in gold; “Alchemy, the process by which base materials are turned into gold, is made a little easier when your principal ingredient already contains that precious metal”, it tells us, tongue in cheek.
To complement the excellent natural resources, John and Tommy Dewar commissioned Charles Cree Doig of Elgin, the leading distillery architect of the day, to design Aberfeldy Distillery; the result was as modern as could be. In addition to the site’s outstanding facilities, the location bore sentimental significance for its founders, standing just three miles from the humble croft where John Dewar, the company’s founder, was born.
Aberfeldy Distillery went into production in 1898. Two years later, the boom of the 1890s turned to bust. Dewar’s survived better than most. During his world tour of 1892-94 Tommy had appointed distributors and agents in twenty-six countries and, in the early years of the twentieth century, the company’s export business compensated for the downturn in UK sales. The nature of Dewar’s early success bears influence to this day, with continuing success of Dewar’s White Label (especially in the United States) meaning Aberfeldy was not released as a single malt by its owner until 1991. Today, the distillery produces two core single malt products, Aberfeldy 12 Year Old and Aberfeldy 21 Year, with the latter first appearing in 2003. As Tommy Dewar wrote: “We have great regard for old age – when it’s bottled!”