A distillery with a great history and a few name changes over the years, this is Scotland’s oldest operating unit. It is also one of the most attractive distilleries anywhere in the country and has one of the most carefully documented histories of any of them.
My visit took place at a significant time as the then owners – Seagram – were preparing to celebrate the bicentenary of the founding of the distillery in 1786, as Milltown distillery, by George Taylor. He did so on the basis of a charter granted by the Earl of Findlater and Seafield and was licensed to distil from the start although some illicit activity had no doubt taken place at some time.
Milltown eventually became Milton but the whisky itself had long been known as Strathisla, recalling the wide lush valley in which the distillery and the town of Keith lie. In 1951 the distillery’s name was changed again to the more distinctive Strathisla, no doubt to take advantage of the reputation which the product had built for itself. That was a year after Seagram had acquired it following a number of ownership changes including one that had let to bankruptcy and jail time for the previous owner for tax evasion!
The make became closely associated with Chivas Regal, as continues to be the case following Pernod-Ricard’s purchase of Seagram’s whisky interests in 2001.