Scotland is the historical home of Whisky. As such, Scotland has had plenty of time for numerous distilleries to pop up and die again, leading in their wake what is known as silent distilleries.
What is a silent distillery?
Basically, a silent distillery is a distillery that is no longer in use. It could have been mothballed (meaning decommissioned for a period of time) due to financial strain or a lack of demand.
Some distilleries have been silent for more than hundred years. These distilleries can date back as far as the late 18th and 19th centuries, when there were a lot of changes in laws regarding Whisky. Specifically, the Excise Law was introduced, making many distilleries illegal.
Many shut down during the late 1700s, only to reappear in the 1800s with a new license, and eventually there were up to 200 distilleries in Scotland. These did not all last and many shut down following another crash and the economic turmoil that occurred. In later decades, distilleries were met with further economic strife, in regards to the first and second world wars. Around 70 of the original 200 had closed down in this time. Things improved after 1945, when Whisky saw a boom in sales that continued right up until 1980. In the 60s and 70s many new distilleries were opened to cope with the rise in demand.
This, however, did not last, and the Whisky industry saw a massive downturn in sales in the 80s. This led to the mothballing of a lot of distilleries, many of which were doomed to never reopen. Some of those included in the mass mothballing were Port Ellen, Braeval, Glenglassaugh, St. Magdalene (Linlithgow), Rosebank, Kinclaith, Brora, Glenugie and Glenlochy, amongst others.
So with these mass closures, the question we all want to know is can you still invest in malt from these distilleries? And the answer is yes, but they are incredibly rare and very pricey. Whiskies from silent distilleries can end up costing thousands of pounds and are a great investment if you don’t want to drink it. A release from Brora or Port Ellen will set you back somewhere in the range of £5000 in one go.