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The hidden treasures of whisky collecting

We all know the big name Scotch whisky brands loved by collectors: Macallan, Dalmore, Highland Park, Ardbeg, Springbank, Glenfarclas, and more. Say those names and you’ll have whisky lovers furtively checking their bank accounts. Then there’s lost (and now in various stages of being resurrected) distilleries like Brora, Rosebank and Port Ellen. And from the newer cohort, one name stands above all, Daftmill in Fife, which is so popular that we have to use a ballot system to sell our tiny annual allocation. 

But just as oranges are not the only fruit, there are other distilleries that are equally demanding of your time and money but that don’t quite get the headlines of a Macallan or Springbank. We’ve picked these distilleries because not only do they make (or made) great whisky but they’re all a bit under the radar so they’re good for anorak points from your fellow whisky bores. 

The hidden treasures of whisky collecting


It was the barman/barber at a now defunct combined whisky bar/hairdresser in Soho called Blade who tipped me off about Kilkerran. Such portmanteau shops were all the rage in the 2010s. He gave me some of the just-released Kilkerran 12 Year Old to try and said that it would be a cult whisky of the future. And he turned out to be right. The price has increased and at the moment we are only letting each customer buy one bottle. Kilkerran whisky comes from Glengyle distillery which has a history that dates back to the 19th century though its modern history only begins in 2004 when the distillery buildings were acquired and refitted by J&A Mitchell and Co. Ltd, the owners of Springbank. The Glengyle brand name is owned by Loch Lomond hence why the whisky is sold under the Kilkerran brand. The whisky is classic Campbeltown ie. oily, full-bodied with a distinct smokiness to it. Wonderful stuff!

Glen Scotia

Two Campbeltown distilleries in this line-up might seem excessive considering there are only three working distilleries in the region but what can we say, we love the distinctive Campbeltown style. Glen Scotia dates back to 1832 and since 2000 has been in the hands of Loch Lomond which has put a lot of thought into marketing this great distillery. Despite this Glen Scotia isn’t quite as well-known perhaps as it should be. We love the thick, oily single malts with a distinct saltiness produced here especially if there’s a sherry cask involved as with the Glen Scotia 12 Year Old Icons of Campbeltown which has a palo cortado finish. Who needs Springbank?


For many years Edradour (see photo in header) was the smallest distillery in Scotland. It has since been superseded by some craft start-ups but at a production of only 90,000 litres per year, it’s still pretty tiny. Established in 1825 in the hills of Pitlochry, Edradour (pronounced ‘EDD-ra-DOWer’) maintains its heritage as an almost artisanal distillery. For most of its life it produced spirits for blends but since Signatory acquired the distillery in 2002, Edradour concentrated its efforts, almost solely, on producing single malts. The heart of the range, Edradour 10 Year Old, exhibits an unconventional charm, uncharacteristic of a Highland single malt but we also recommend seeking out the rare peated Ballechin expressions.

Ben Nevis

You might not think you have tried the whisky from Ben Nevis, it is not highly marketed or promoted, but if you have ever enjoyed a fine Japanese blend like Nikka from the Barrel, then you have almost certainly tasted it. That’s because since 1989 Ben Nevis has been owned by Nikka and a large part of its production goes into bulk shipments to Japan. The distillery was founded in 1825 in the Western Highlands, near the town of Fort William by the gloriously named ‘Long John’ MacDonald. At one point there was a Coffey still on site but today its production is entirely traditional unpeated double-distilled malt whisky. You can taste the unblended magic in the meaty and decidedly old school Ben Nevis 10 Year Old and in various independent bottling.


The appeal of ghost distilleries to collectors is obvious, there’s only a finite amount of stock so at some point you will literally not be able to buy any whisky no matter how much money you have. It will all be drunk, or squirrelled away in some Swiss bank vault. Brora, Rosebank and Port Ellen get all the noise but there are many other such distilleries in Scotland. At a tasting a few years ago of the Diageo Prima & Ultima collection, the single malt that impressed me the most was from Convalmore, a distillery I have never heard of. It was based in Speyside, in Dufftown, opened in 1893 and distilled its last in 1985. While it’s not quite the bargain it once was, you will have to spend more than £1,000 a bottle (try this 1978 Rare Malts edition), prices are still not crazy for high strength 20 plus year old whisky from a distillery that hasn’t produced any whisky for nearly 40 years. I’ve only tried it once but never forgotten its intense fruity taste – like the best Glenlivet you ever had. 


If Convalmore prices have moved out of your reach but you still want some of that ghost distillery magic then take a look at Caperdonich. At the time of writing, you can buy Caperdonich 18 Year Old Peated – Secret Speyside Collection for under £140! Capedonich began its life in 1897 as Glen Grant’s sister distillery, it was known in true Ronseal manner as Glen Grant Number 2. It was closed for much of the early 20th century before being renovated by Glenlivet Distillers and in 1967 named Caperdonich. Its production went into blends such as Chivas Regal and Passport. Pernod Ricard bought it in 2001 but closed it along with Allt-á-Bhainne and Braeval for the following year. There was only ever one official bottling, a 16 year old expression. Today, you can get hold of many independent bottlings and at surprisingly reasonable prices… though for how much longer?


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