Built in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, hence the name, the timing could not have been worse and this splendid edifice never reached anything like its true potential. Production started in July 1898, only to be closed down the following year. It remained closed for 20 years until 1919 when a consortium of blenders took control but it only operated until 1925 and was then closed again until 1955, due mainly to the difficulties of disposing of effluent.
Imperial was the initiative of the people who owned Dailuaine and Talisker distilleries, but they had miscalculated demand and eventually the company owning all three distilleries was absorbed into DCL in 1925. Imperial re-opened in 1955 and much modernisation was undertaken following resolution of the effluent problem. New stills were added and the floor maltings, which had continued to function to supply other distilleries whilst distilling at Imperial was halted, were replaced in 1967 with Saladin maltings which, in turn, were removed in 1984. The distillery itself closed the following year. My visit in 1986 found “only a skeleton work force to attend to the warehouses. Consequently, only two of the 24 company houses are occupied…”.
But Imperial was not finished – at least not yet. In 1989 it was sold to Allied Distillers and production recommenced two years later, only for it to go back into mothballs in 2000. In 2005 it went to Pernod-Ricard as part of their acquisition of Allied assets and was finally demolished in 2013. The site was then used for the construction of Dalmunach distillery and several of Imperial’s key design features have been incorporated into Dalmunach. These include the Aberdeen red brick from the original mill building and wood from the distillery’s original wash-backs, which has been used on the walls of the new tun room. Will the ghosts of Imperial haunt Dalmunach?
There is understood to have only ever been one official bottling of Imperial as a single malt and not that many by independent bottlers.