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Vendor: Gordon & MacPhail

Imperial 1979-2021 | 42 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Single Cask 5619

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Imperial is one of those curiously quiet distilleries that everyone knows but thinks little of.

It is a shame because there are many fine bottlings of it and, since it is now regarded as a closed distillery, there are more interesting ones appearing all the time.

Founded: 1897
Mothballed: 1998
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit
Water Source: Ballintomb Burn
Capacity: 1.6 Million Litres
Owners: Pernod Ricard

1955-1985: The SMD years.

Imperial was reopened in 1955 after a 30 year silence. The renovation included a modernization of its two stills, giving them worm tubs and internal heating. The distillery was expanded in 1965 as well with the addition of a second pair of stills. This process was swift and simple and little changed at Imperial until its temporary closure in 1985, save for the installation of a Saladin box maltings system.

There are a few early independent bottlings from this era, mainly by Cadenheads and G&M, the G&M CC bottlings are generally dodgy at best but the Cadenheads casks can be fantastic and show a spirit full of metallic, mineral and oily subtleties with very fresh grassy and oddly milky aspects, well worth trying or seeking out if you can.

1989-1998: The Allied Years

During this time Imperial again operated fairly unchanged only under the notoriously careless ownership of Allied Distillers. Bottlings from these years can be hit or miss but the best examples are big, full-bodied, and often fairly coastal examples of tough highland whisky. The best come from Douglas Laing and G&M. It seems sadly unlikely that Imperial will reopen and, as bottlings start to appear more regularly, it is worth taking a little more interest in this oft-forgotten distillery.