Edradour Distillery was established in 1825 as a farmers’ cooperative and is the very last original farm distillery still operating in Scotland. The cooperative selected an extremely picturesque location which helped guarantee Edradour’s longevity, as a succession of owners have consistently decided to maintain and promote the distillery’s charm. Today Edradour is still housed in its original farm buildings and very little has changed other than the introduction of electricity in 1947 and the conversion of a barn into a visitor centre during the 1980s. Compared to the rest of Scotland’s distilleries everything at Edradour is small, in fact the stills are the smallest size permitted for commercial distilling by Customs & Excise, much like a modern day Tasmanian distillery if you’ve been lucky enough to visit one. All the distilling equipment, mostly made of wood, is crammed into one room with all processes using traditional methods with no automation.
The distillery was originally named Glenforres before being changed to Edradour in 1837 and peacefully went about producing whisky for the next century before the business was taken over by giant Glasgow blending company, William Whiteley and Co. in 1933, who promptly changed the name back to Glenforres. Whiteley had already been using Edradour in a number of their blends and the purchase was intended to give them control of the source.
Meanwhile across the pond in America, prohibition had ended and the market was open for business. This led a seemingly unlikely group of buyers to Whiteley’s door and in 1938 two American gentlemen with very close links to the mafia bought Glenforres for $325,000. The deal was funded by Frank “the Prime Minister” Costello, boss of the Luciano crime family who had cut his teeth selling liquor during the Prohibition years and knew the liquor trade intimately. Costello sensed the coming whisky boom and subsequently pocketed a margin of every bottle of Edradour ‘King’s Ransom’ whisky sold in the USA. The mafia ownership had an unexpected benefit for future custodians of the distillery however, because thanks to a policy of not investing in any refurbishment or modernisation none of the equipment was ever upgraded which explains how today the distillery still uses all of the original 19th century equipment.
In 1982 Glenforres was sold to Pernod Ricard who promptly renamed it Edradour. By now single malt whisky was beginning to gain traction against blends and Pernod saw a fantastic opportunity in marketing Scotland’s smallest and allegedly most beautiful distillery. A visitors’ center was opened that same year and in 1986 the first Edradour single malt was released as a 10 year old.
All this time the distillery’s whisky had never quite lived up to its full potential, but thankfully that changed in 2002 when famed independent bottler Andrew Symington purchased the distillery. Andrew rapidly expanded the range from just the 10 year old to include a variety of wood finishes, cask strength expressions plus a peated range and today Edradour boasts the largest range of whiskies readily available for purchase of any distillery in Scotland. Expansion is currently underway for the first time in almost 200 years with an identical replica of the distillery being built on the other side of the burn (stream) that runs through the middle of the property and the original buildings will continue to produce Edradour while the new buildings will produce Ballechin, Edradour’s peated expression.