Edradour Distillery – Almost The Smallest

Poor little Edradour Distillery. For years they positioned themselves as ‘the smallest’ in Scotland, and while they are still very wee, Strathearn Distillery recently stole the title. Amusingly, Strathern’s website says ‘probably Scotlands smallest distillery’.

While it may no longer be the smallest, Edradour Distillery is certainly one of the loveliest AND it’s very well set up for touring.  The distillery shop is HUGE! Edradour Distillery is owned by independent bottling company Signatory Vintage and the shop carries a superb range of whisky, from Edradour and Signatory’s stock. It’s worth a visit just to see what’s on offer.

Edradour Distillery Burn - the stream is used to cool the worm tubs. Water used to make the whisky is from a spring 4 miles north of the distillery
Edradour Distillery Burn - the stream is used to cool the worm tubs. Water used to make the whisky is from a spring 4 miles north of the distillery

Edradour Distillery History

When Alfred Barnard visited Edradour Distillery around 1885-86, he noted a Barley Barn, Malt House and Mill all in the same building, a Mash Tun of 1000 gallons / 4500 litres and four Washbacks capable of holding the same. The wash still had a capacity of 740 gallons (3,364 litres), and the spirit/ low-wines still 420 gallons (1,909 litres). Annual output was 6,600 gallons (30,000 litres).

He notes that the stream running through the middle of the distillery is ‘one of the most rampant and brawling streams in the district’ with ‘water power sufficient to drive several water wheels’. The water wheels were used to power the distillery until Edradore had electricity installed in 1947.

The malt barn/maltings closed down in the 1970s and instead the malted barley arrives in huge bags, delivered from the maltsters. The building has been a visitors’ centre sine 1986 – the distillery tour starts in here with a video and whisky tasting.

The water from the burn (stream) is now used only for cooling purposes, such as in the worm tubs. Water used to produce the whisky is from a spring four miles north of the distillery.

Edradour branded whisky is matured predominantly in first-fill Oloroso Sherry Butts which hold around 500 bulk litres, or 315 litres of alcohol. Ballechin whisky is aged mostly in ex-bourbon barrels which hold 200 bulk litres and refill sherry butts (which have been used for one cycle to make Edradour whisky). Ex-wine casks are often used for finishing (enhancing the final taste and colour) for a period of 6 months to 2 years in addition to the initial time spent in the original cask.

Edradour fills on average 12 casks per week, but this varies depending on what they’re filling – it’s only seven if they’re filling sherry butts, (but!) they can fill up to 19 ex-bourbon casks.

Where Is Edradour Distillery

Edradour Distillery is 2.7 miles / 4.5 km from Pitlochry (56.7021886,-3.699581). I’ve seen a few comments online about it being hard to find – it isn’t well signed, but if you get yourself onto the unnamed road Edradour Distillery is located on, you can’t miss it! You may wonder if you’re on a private driveway as most of the road is a tree-lined narrow laneway (if you’re coming from the South).

Stagecoach East Scotland runs buses from Pitlochry to East Haugh, 1.1 miles / 1.8 km walk from the distillery.

If you are staying in Pitlochry, and the weather is in your favour, then a walk along the laneways to/from the distillery would be a day well spent.

Edradour Distillery Address

Edradour Distillery Tours and Bookings

Edradour Distillery run tours hourly up from 10 am until 4 pm, April to October. They close at 5 pm sharp and are NOT open Sundays. Children under 12 years old are not permitted on tours or in the shop.

Tickets are £7.50 for adults and £2.50 for children aged 12 – 17 years.

Bookings are essential for groups of 8 or more, but I would highly recommend you book in advance regardless of your number. Edradour is TINY. Until recently, it held the title of smallest distillery in Scotland. They have an excellent set-up for visitors but are quickly overrun – at the time of my visit there were three coaches in the car park, but thankfully they were just leaving!! Avoid disappointment or a long wait and book your spot in advance. Else, go around noon – 1 pm or so, as the coach tourists tend to be off elsewhere having lunch, but there are no guarantees unless you book.

Bookings via  tours@edradour.com

Useful Visitor Information

Photos are allowed throughout the distillery. Edradour is one of my favourite distilleries to photograph due to its contrasting colour scheme and beautiful old equipment.

There is a small bar on site where visitors wait for the tour. Book your tour tickets at the distillery shop (near the main entrance).

Edradour Distillery is tiny, but it does have quite a large parking area.

What Else Is Nearby

Accommodation

The closest town to Edradour Distillery is Pitlochry.

We stayed about 45 minutes drive away in Glen Lyon – just past Aberfeldy – at a fantastic Airbnb. Glen Lyon is a superb part of Scotland, and our single room bothy with kitchen and ensuite bathroom was perfect for two. The same host also rents out the house next door which is suitable for families or those wanting more space.

If you haven’t used Airbnb before, would like a discount AND help support this website, please sign-up using this link.

Edradour Distillery Whisky

Included with your distillery tour ticket are two free tastings: one Edradour 10yo (unpeated) and either a Ballechin 10yo (peated) or a Whisky Cream.

Edradour 10yo comes in chill filtered and un-chill filtered versions. The un-chill filtered Edradour 10yo whisky is a tad more expensive, but it’s also 46% A.B.V (vs 40% A.B.V for the chill filtered) and should pack a lot more flavour for not being chill-filtered.

Aimed at the Asia export market, chill filtering gets rid of a lot of the oiliness in whisky, which means it won’t go cloudy if you add ice, but in my opinion, it takes out much of the flavour too.

Ralfy notes below that the Edradour 2003 release needs to sit for a while (20 mins) with a bit of water to ‘open’ properly. The Edradour 2003 10yo is not readily available anymore, but the Edradour 2006 10yo is available in bottlings from 2016 and 2017.

I liked the Ballechin 10yo a lot – I consider it lightly peated (I’m an Octomore fan) and easy to drink – it reminded me of something I would get from Springbank or Bunnahabhain.

Edradour Distillery Images

This building houses almost the entire Edradour Distillery whisky making operation - the mill, mash tun, washbacks and stills. The square worm tubs are behind.
This building houses almost the entire Edradour Distillery whisky making operation - the mill, mash tun, washbacks and stills. The square worm tubs are behind.
Edradour Distillery Still House - the draff is shovelled from the Mash Tun into the trailer, then taken off to a neighbouring farm and fed to cattle.
Edradour Distillery Still House - the draff is shovelled from the Mash Tun into the trailer, then taken off to a neighbouring farm and fed to cattle.
The malt barn/maltings closed down in the 1970s and instead the malted barley arrives in huge bags, delivered from the maltsters. The building has been a visitors' centre sine 1986 - the distillery tour starts in here with a video and tasting.
The malt barn/maltings closed down in the 1970s and instead the malted barley arrives in huge bags, delivered from the maltsters. The building has been a visitors' centre sine 1986 - the distillery tour starts in here with a video and tasting.
Looking down over Edradour Distillery from the Malt Barn
Looking down over Edradour Distillery from the Malt Barn
Edradour Distillery Malt Barn and Malt House. It is now the visitor's centre.
Edradour Distillery Malt Barn and Malt House. It is now the visitor's centre.
The stills at Edradour are some of the smallest in Scotland - their squat profiles and the use of worm tubs means less copper available for the sulphur molecules in the spirit vapour to react with. Subsequently, the style of spirit produced by Edradour could be heavy and oily. However, the neck on the wash still is quite long, which prolongs the time the vapour is in the copper still. Additionally, the spirit/low-wines still has a 'boil ball' re-flux chamber, which forces many of the heavier compounds in the low-wines back into the main cavity of the still, for re-distillation. A spirit purifier sits between the still and the worm tub condensers in a further attempt to capture some of the heavier compounds.
The stills at Edradour are some of the smallest in Scotland - their squat profiles and the use of worm tubs means less copper available for the sulphur molecules in the spirit vapour to react with. Subsequently, the style of spirit produced by Edradour could be heavy and oily. However, the neck on the wash still is quite long, which prolongs the time the vapour is in the copper still. Additionally, the spirit/low-wines still has a 'boil ball' re-flux chamber, which forces many of the heavier compounds in the low-wines back into the main cavity of the still, for re-distillation. A spirit purifier sits between the still and the worm tub condensers in a further attempt to capture some of the heavier compounds.
Edradour Distillery Still House - wash still on the left, underbacks on the right, washbacks at the rear of the building, after the Moreton's Refrigerator
Edradour Distillery Still House - wash still on the left, underbacks on the right, washbacks at the rear of the building, after the Moreton's Refrigerator
The Moreton's Refrigerator at Edradour Distillery - after entering the Underback at around 69 or 75 deg C, the wort is passed through the Morton Refrigerator to cool it to around 20 deg C, before being transferred into one of the two Oregon Pine Washbacks.
The Moreton's Refrigerator at Edradour Distillery - after entering the Underback at around 69 or 75 deg C, the wort is passed through the Morton Refrigerator to cool it to around 20 deg C, before being transferred into one of the two Oregon Pine Washbacks.
Close up of Moreton's Refrigerator at Edradour Distillery - after entering the Underback at around 69 or 75 deg C, the wort is passed through the Morton Refrigerator to cool it to around 20 deg C, before being transferred into one of the two Oregon Pine Washbacks.
Close up of Moreton's Refrigerator at Edradour Distillery - after entering the Underback at around 69 or 75 deg C, the wort is passed through the Morton Refrigerator to cool it to around 20 deg C, before being transferred into one of the two Oregon Pine Washbacks.
Edradour Distillery Kiln, complete with fake peat fire. The malt barn/maltings were retired in the 1970s.
Edradour Distillery Kiln, complete with fake peat fire. The malt barn/maltings were retired in the 1970s.
Spirit Purifier leading from Low-Wines/Spirit Still into a Worm Tub Condenser at Edradour Distillery
Spirit Purifier leading from Low-Wines/Spirit Still into a Worm Tub Condenser at Edradour Distillery
Oregon Pine / Douglas Fir is used to construct the Edradour Distillery Washbacks. Mauri Pinnacle Compressed yeast is used to ferment the wort for 48 to 72 hours, producing a wash that is 7-9% alcohol.
Oregon Pine / Douglas Fir is used to construct the Edradour Distillery Washbacks. Mauri Pinnacle Compressed yeast is used to ferment the wort for 48 to 72 hours, producing a wash that is 7-9% alcohol.
Fermenting wort inside one of the Edradour Distillery Washbacks. Mauri Pinnacle Compressed yeast is used to ferment the wort for 48 to 72 hours, producing a wash that is 7-9% alcohol.
Fermenting wort inside one of the Edradour Distillery Washbacks. Mauri Pinnacle Compressed yeast is used to ferment the wort for 48 to 72 hours, producing a wash that is 7-9% alcohol.
Edradour Mash Tun: 1.15 metric tonnes of malted barley is milled into grist daily, then added to 5500 litres of water at 69 deg C in the Mash Tun. The first mash cycle takes almost 2 hours, whereas the second cycle is 30 minutes shorter, using 1800 litres at 76 deg C. The strained liquids (Wort) from both the first and second cycles drain into the Underbacks. A third wash is then run at 87 deg C. The filtered Wort from this cycle gets transferred into a separate storage tank for reuse as the next 'first wash', rather than into the Underbacks. The third Wash/Wort has the least amount of sugar in it. By re-using it as the first wash for the next batch, it optimises the few sugars it does contain.
Edradour Mash Tun: 1.15 metric tonnes of malted barley is milled into grist daily, then added to 5500 litres of water at 69 deg C in the Mash Tun. The first mash cycle takes almost 2 hours, whereas the second cycle is 30 minutes shorter, using 1800 litres at 76 deg C. The strained liquids (Wort) from both the first and second cycles drain into the Underbacks. A third wash is then run at 87 deg C. The filtered Wort from this cycle gets transferred into a separate storage tank for reuse as the next 'first wash', rather than into the Underbacks. The third Wash/Wort has the least amount of sugar in it. By re-using it as the first wash for the next batch, it optimises the few sugars it does contain.
The Mash Tun, Spirit Safe and Stills at Edradour Distillery. The stills are some of the smallest in Scotland. Edradour fills on average 12 casks per week, but this varies depending on what they're filling - only seven if filling sherry butts, (but!) up to 19 when filling ex-bourbon casks.
The Mash Tun, Spirit Safe and Stills at Edradour Distillery. The stills are some of the smallest in Scotland. Edradour fills on average 12 casks per week, but this varies depending on what they're filling - only seven if filling sherry butts, (but!) up to 19 when filling ex-bourbon casks.
The two worm tubs at Edradour Distillery. The wash still comes out on the left, and the spirit still, with its spirit purifier, is on the right.
The two worm tubs at Edradour Distillery. The wash still comes out on the left, and the spirit still, with its spirit purifier, is on the right.

For more images, including the warehouses see our Edradour Distillery Gallery

References & Further Reading

  1. Alfred Barnard, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, 2008 Edition, first published in 1887 by Harpers Weekly Gazette