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    Aberfeldy Single Malt Whisky

    With the construction of Aberfeldy Distillery, to supply them with the ‘heart malt’ for their now hugely successful blends, John Dewar & Sons came of age.
    The Victualling Trades’ Review of September 1896 noted: “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.”
    Indeed, the water was tried and tested. In 1825 Archibald McLean licensed the Pitilie Distillery a mile up-stream (it continued until 1867); furthermore, as the Aberfeldy 21 Years Old’s carton reminds us, the burn is rich in gold and is one of the few places in Scotland where people still come to pan for the precious metal. “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.

    John and Tommy Dewar commissioned Charles Cree Doig of Elgin, the leading distillery architect of the day, who was at the height of his fame by 1896, and who is said to have designed almost a hundred whisky distilleries in Scotland and Northern Ireland. His signature invention, which would become (and remains) an iconic feature of Scottish malt distilleries, was the pagoda roof for the malt kiln – correctly named the ‘Doig Ventillator’. The one at Aberfeldy is still a key architectural feature, although it has not been used since the 1970s, and the malt f loors themselves house the excellent visitor centre, Dewar’s World of Whiskies.
    The new distillery was as modern as could be. Built of locally quarried stone, it incorporated a water turbine and a steam engine to provide power. A private generator supplied electricity. The duty-free warehouse was provided with a hydraulic lift. A siding was led onto the Aberfeldy-Perth railway line which ran close by, to dispatch whisky to Dewar’s HQ in Perth for blending and bring in barley – although local farms provided most of the requirement. Initially, 20 butts of spirit (2,200 gallons or 5,700 litres of pure alcohol) were made each week.

    Aberfeldy Distillery went into production in 1898. Two years later, the boom years of the 1890s turned to bust. Throughout the decade, the whisky trade was seen as blue chip by banks and investors; cash for expansion was readily available, the market for blended Scotch seemed inexhaustible – Scotch (and soda) was the drink of the Empire - and skilful advertising and promotion by the leading companies, including John Dewar & Sons, kept the pot boiling. “If you don’t advertise, you fossilise”, wrote Tommy. “Keep advertising and advertising will keep you”.

    Dewar’s survived better than most. During his world tour in 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 down-turn in U.K. sales, following Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ in 1909 which increased the price of a bottle. Because of this, and the continuing success of Dewar’s White Label (especially in the United States), Aberfeldy was not released as a single malt by its owner until 1991; the splendid 21YO first appeared in 2003. As Tommy Dewar wrote: “We have great regard for old age – when it’s bottled!”

    Aberfeldy produces two core products, the Aberfeldy 12 year old single malt and the Aberfeldy 21 year old single malt whisky - both of which have been well received by the whisky community.

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