The distillery was founded with the name of the nearby town Strathspey in the late 1890s. In 1897, John Grant, George Sellar and Alexander Mackenzie founded the Strathspey distillery. Production started in 1898 but unfortunately the society went bankrupt the same year. The distillery was sold to AP Blyth in 1898 and his son renamed it Dalwhinnie. The Dalwhinnie name derives from the Gaelic word ‘Dail-coinneeamh’ meaning for a meeting place of sheep and cattle drovers. Set in splendid mountain scenery, Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland at 1073 ft. It was close to the geographic centre of the Highlands and so enjoyed easy access to the reliable link to market offered by the new Highland Railway. This helped the distillery to survive its often fragile beginnings. So remote is the distillery that in 1994 it was officially recorded as the coldest inhabited place in Scotland for that year. A fire in 1934 stopped production for 3 years, and the reopening in 1938 was short-lived because the second world war brought restrictions on the supply of barley. Since reopening in 1947, the distillery has continued to operate through to the present day, although on-site malting ceased in 1968.
Where it can, Dalwhinnie retains the old ways, traditional wood is still used for its washbacks, for example. Just two copper stills, as there have always been, send the alcohol into the lye pipes on its way to the stillman. Dalwhinnie is part of the Classic Malts brand of Diageo.
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