Today we’re using our New Arrival of the Week to talk about Adelphi. You may know the name and you’ve hopefully tasted the whisky because this is a brand that gets it right with astonishing consistency. What was once another lost distillery today stands as one of Scotch whisky’s foremost independent bottlers, as well as the creator of the great value Adelphi Blended Scotch Whisky, and the owner of the Ardnamurchan distillery which opened in 2014.
The story begins in 1826 when the Loch Katrine Adelphi Distillery was established on the banks of the River Clyde in what is now the heart of Glasgow. The company was bought in 1880 by Messrs A. Walker and Co., noted for owning large distilleries in Liverpool and Limerick, who expanded it to include grain production. By 1886, the operation ran a Coffey still and four-pot stills to make it become one the largest distilleries in Scotland with an annual output of over 500,000 gallons.
Being one of the most advanced and productive distilleries in Scotland doesn’t always save you in a competitive and volatile market, however. The distillery was acquired by Distillers Company Ltd in 1903, but things quickly turned for the worse. The pot stills ceased production of malt in 1907 and by 1932 the Coffey stills had run for the last time. In 1968, the final nail in the coffin came as the bonded warehouses closed, with the demolition of the Loch Katrine Adelphi Distillery following soon after in 1971.
The Adelphi revival
The Aldephi name went quiet until James Walker, A. Walker’s great-grandson, restored it in 1993. He created an independent bottling brand, securing stock from across Scotland that met his scrupulous demands as well as those of Charles MacClean, the legendary whisky writer who enlisted to assist the project as ‘chief nose’. Walker steadily built an impressive brand, one that caught the eye of Keith Falconer and Donald Houston, when they tried to buy a single hogshead in 2003. They left with the whole company.
As a chartered accountant and the owner of a global engineering business, respectively, Falconer and Houston brought in Alex Bruce to run the show. The descendant of the pioneer of blended Scotch, Andrew Usher Sr, and former J&B man, Bruce has done a fine job and is still managing director today, as well as a Keeper of the Quaich. With Bruce at the helm, the company reached a crossroads once demand began to outstrip the supply and took the bold decision to build a distillery. That result was the impressive Ardnamurchan, which started filling casks back in 2014 and in the last couple of years has released its first single malts, such as Ardnamurchan AD/.
But the core identity of the brand remains in its bottlings and the reason why the brand is so beloved by Scotch whisky fans is the principles Adelphi lives by. The first is that the whisky is bottled directly from a single cask, one that is selected on the basis that is from the top 10% of casks filled by the single malt distillery. I’m not quite sure how they reach that analysis, but I’d imagine a combination of expertise and good contacts means they rarely stray from the good stuff. I’ve also heard Adelphi only accepts about 4% of the whisky it’s offered.
While that particular figure is obviously subject to change, what isn’t is the insistence that every whisky is always bottled without adulteration. That means each spirit is presented at cask strength with its natural and is not chill-filtered. It’s a costly, risky way of doing things because it means Adelphi is dealing with small batches (the average cask only gives you 200-600 bottles) and it doesn’t do anything to make the volume stretch (like dilution). But, while these ideals are hard to live by, it is this approach that has ended up defining the brand.
Glenrothes presented by Adelphi
The bottles we get tend to be small in supply because of this and often sell out, but today we’re fortunate enough to still show off some Glenrothes 15 Year Old 2007 (cask 10234) (Adelphi). The Speyside distillery boasts very tall stills equipped with boil bulbs that maximise reflux which results in a refined spirit that matures beautifully in sherry casks. In this case, a refill oloroso sherry butt was used for all 15 years of maturation for a whisky that was bottled at 59.6% ABV. Expect a robust, rewarding, sherried treat. Although, you probably don’t need my two cents. The Aldephi name speaks for itself.
You can buy Glenrothes 15 Year Old 2007 (cask 10234) (Adelphi) now.