Post image for The Periodic Table Of Scotch Whisky

The Periodic Table Of Scotch Whisky

by Oliver Klimek on May 24, 2013

Most of you probably know the highly successful Elements of Islay bottling range by Speciality Drinks. Here the Islay distilleries have been assigned pseudo-chemical symbols, so the bottles look as if they were snatched from the shelf of a chemistry lab.

Wouldn’t it be nice to expand this concept to a full-blown periodic table like the ones gracing the walls of school rooms and university lecture theatres? After all, there is a lof of chemistry going on in whisky making, so the analogy is not entirely pointless.

After quite a few hours of data collection, brain tormenting and formatting here is the result. Klick the picture to download the PDF file:

periodictableofscotchwhisky1_3

You can also buy a poster of the periodic table on Zazzle.

The table includes both working and closed Scottish malt and grain whisky distilleries as well as a selection of important blend brands. Displayed data includes founding and closing years, number of stills (malt distilleries only), production capacity and current ownership. Two major issues had to be tackled: the assignment of symbols and the ordering.

There are more than 150 entries in the table, and symbol assignment was not an easy task. To avoid confusion, the Elements of Islay symbols should not be altered, and there should be no one-letter symbols to avoid the impression that some distilleries or brands were something special or somehow rated above others. Since there are more than 30 “Glen” distilleries, not every distillery can have a two-letter symbol starting with its first letter. Three-letter symbols were out of discussion. So for some of the Glens the second part of the name was used for symbol assignment. A special case is Glengyle that received the Ki symbol. Suitable second letters after G were running out, so Ki was chosen to represent Kilkerran which is the brand name Glengyle uses for its whisky.

Unlike in chemistry the ‘elements’ are not numbered. The number of a chemical element equals the number of protons in an atom, clearly defining it. For a whisky distillery there is no equivalent, only the founding dates could justify a numbering, but then the entire table would have to be based on that.

How should the distileries be ordered then? In chemisty the elements are grouped by periodic similarities in the configuration of electrons, so it could be argued that whisky distilleries should be grouped by similarities in style. But while some distilleries like Laphroaig or Glenfarclas do indeed have rather distinctive house styles, others like Benriach or Bruichaddich offer a wide variety of styles. Experimentation with casks and peating levels have been steadily increasing, so grouping distilleries by style would cause a serious headache.

In this table the active malt whisky distilleries are horizontally grouped by geography. The concept of whisky regions has often been criticized, also on this very blog, not the least because of the problems of styles just mentioned. But used simply as a geographic guiding line, it can be useful for an overview of distilleries.

Lowlands and Islay take the outer ends – if there are any regions that display at least a minimum of regional character, then these two. Islands next to Islay is fairly straightforward, the remaining distilleries are grouped by a virtual tour across the Scottish Highlands with Speyside in the centre. The grouping is of course subjective because there are no clearly defined sub-regions. Vertical arrangement is by distillery capacity from low to high.

Closed malt whisky distilleries as well as grain whisky distilleries and blended whisky brands are ordered alphabetically. Capacity data for closed distilleries is hard to find and thus omitted. And regional grouping would have looked very patchy.

Lochside and Loch Lomond are only listed as malt whisky distilleries, even though they produce(d) also grain whisky. Please note that Carsebridge was founded in 1799 as malt distillery, it only switched to grain in the mid-1850s.

The limited space of the table does not permit to include sub-brands like Longrow or Ledaig, nor can alternative distillery names such as Hillside for Glenesk or Rare Ayrshire for Ladyburn be mentioned.

Founding dates for blended whisky brands are not always easy to find. Some only list the founding dates of the company which may be much older than a particular brand. In general there tends to be a mix-up of company founding, brand founding and individual expresison founding, so some of the dates should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Ownership is colour coded with indpendent distilleries or such with non-conglomerate ownership (for example Tomatin) remaining uncoloured. The recent takover of Whyte & Mackay via United Sprits by Diageo is not implemented because the deal has not been finalized yet and it is unclear if the W&M distilleries will remain with Diageo. The table will be updated once things become clear.

Closed distilleries that belonged to a predecessor of a current conglomerate are assigned to the present conglomerate, for example Inver House to International Beverage or DCL to Diageo.

Sources used: Mainly the 2013 edition of the Malt Whisky Yearbook, the distillery section of Malt Madness and various informations found with Google.

The PDF file may be shared freely, but permission is requred for printing. Should you find any errors or have suggestions for improvement, please feel free to comment or contact.

Update Version 1.1 (24th May) – William Grant & Sons was found missing in the owners list.

Update Version 1.2 (26th May) – Added Caledonain and Starlaw, changed Alloa to North of Scotland, changed “Rb” for Rosebank to “Rs” due to doubling with Royal Brackla

Update Version 1.3 (26th May) – Changed Benriach to Be and Benromach to Bc

Update Version 1.4 (27th May) – Swapped Tv and Tt because of capacity

Related Post

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew Smedley May 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Brilliant!
A lot of care and attention must have gone into this and it shows!
Well done Oliver!

Reply

Jörg Bechtold May 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm

There’s an App for that: http://whiskyiodic.istolz.com/.

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I have noticed. But it does not seem to include even all working distilleries

Reply

Steffen Bräuner May 24, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Knockdhu and Dalwhinnie are in Speyside

:-)

Steffen

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm

They are and they are not. No problem being flexible here ;)

Reply

Alex Garrison May 24, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Compact, easy to view. This is really nice. It would make a great fold out in a book or a poster.

Reply

Alex Garrison May 24, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Might I suggest providing this in a jpeg file sized for a desktop wallpaper?

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Desktops come in all shapes and sizes, and I don’t have the software to produce JPGs bigger than my own screen. The Adobe PDF reader has a built-in snapshot function that you could use. A problem is also that the proportions of the table are not good for a widescreen monitor.

Reply

Björn Scholz May 25, 2013 at 3:48 am

Hi there Oliver!

Great work and sorry to mess your amazing table up, but it seems as you have missed atleast three grain distilleries:

Caledonian (2) Demolished 1855-1988 Lowlands No official release but some IB’s.
—-
North of Scotland aka Strathmore,changed to North of Scotland after 1964. Demolished 1957-1982 Speyside.
Knox Forth Brewery witch were adjacent to Cambus were converted and made malt whisky for two year. Patent-still malt whisky? Converted to grain 1960. Had three modified continuous still (Coffey). No OB’s but some IB’s.
—-
Starlaw Distillery 2011- Speyside.

This was also a grain distillery:

Lochside (3) Demolished 1957-1992
Started as a grain distillery with one continuous still (Coffey), but installed four pot stills in 1961. The Coffey still were removed 1973. never released any grain OB’s, but some IB’s.

Best regards
Björn Scholz

Reply

Björn Scholz May 25, 2013 at 4:38 am

I missed what you wrote about Lochside, sorry….

These distilleries also had a Patent stills installed:
Ben Nevis In 1955 a continuous still (Coffey) were installed. It were removed in 1971.
Glenesk was renamed from North Esk to Montrose and produced grain whisky 1938-54.

Carsebridge are not the only grain distillery that started as a malt distillery:
Port Dundas had continuous stills (Coffey) installed 1845. Merged with Port Dundas (2) during the 1860′s. 1877 they had three Coffey and five pot stills. Port Dundas (1) started 1811.

Cameronbridge started 1813 not 1824, 1827-05-12 their first continuous still (Stein) was installed under license.

North of Scotland see post above

//Björn Scholz

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 25, 2013 at 7:11 am

Björn, thanks a lot for the commments. You are definitely right about Caledonian and Starlaw. These will be included in the next update.

The Ben Nevis and Glenesk grain stills put them in the same category as Lochside and Loch Lomond. I am considerig to remove Garnheath because it was combined with Glen Flagler. I have included it because of the different name, but technically it may have been just the same as the others.

North of Scotland is actually Alloa. As NoS seems to be more common I may change the Name and Symbol. I’ll check the dates for Port Dundas and Cameronbridge, but there won’t be two Port Dundases in the table.

And for the records, I will only include “recently” closed distilleries where you might still be able to find a modern bottling. Tracing the entire history of Scottish distilleries here would be over the top.

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 25, 2013 at 7:50 am

And one remark I forgot to mention in the article: I would have liked to include sales figures for the blend brands in the “capacity” slot. But no way I will spend £450 on the Scotch Whisky Industry Review that publishes them ;)

Reply

Ingvar Ronde May 25, 2013 at 10:45 am

Nice work Oliver – I love it! Now why didn´t I think of this :-)

Ingvar

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Glad you like it, Ingvar. The Malt Whisky Yearbook was essential in creating the table!

Reply

Björn Scholz May 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Garnheat existed within Moffat distillery complex. It was founded as a grain distillery 1964 and the added two “lines” of pot stills. Did the complex change name to Inver House distillery 1981?
http://www.maltmaniacs.net/e-pistle-1809-glen-flagler-killyloch-distillery-profile/
http://www.maltmadness.com/whisky/glen-flagler.html
http://www.whiskyportal.com/distillery.asp?DistilleryID=552&DistilleryName=Inver+House+Distillers

No need for two Port Dundas, but the first one (1811) were merged with nr.2 (1813) in the 1860′s. The Coffey’s were installed 1845 at both distillery’s, so the distillery started as two malt distillery’s that also started with grain 1845 and merged in the 1860′s. They lay very close.

I do realize that you only list “modern” distillery’s, there have probably been over 600 more Scottish distillery’s…..
All distillery’s I said you missed have atleast a few modern IB reales!

North of Scotland are NOT Alloa. That was a distillery that existed 1795-1851 in Alloa also known as Grange.

//Björn

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I know the old Alloa distillery. But some North of Scotland grains were sold as “Alloa”, this is what I mean. See the bottling list on whiskybase: http://www.whiskybase.com/distillery.php?merkid=190

Reply

Olof A May 26, 2013 at 6:03 am

This is awesome work Oliver! When I saw the Elements of Islay for the first time I hoped that someone would have the energy to do a complete table one day. I applaude the hard work. Small note though, Rb for Rosebank and Royal Brackla.

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 26, 2013 at 7:33 am

Thank you, Olof. A double entry is of course awkward…. The new version is already online, details are at the end of the article.

Reply

Olof A May 31, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Again, Great Work!

p.s. Pittyvaich vs Pittivaich

Reply

Niels Jonker May 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Nice work,

did you notice Balmenach and Benromach both have the letters Bm?

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Sigh… Will be corrected immediately!

Reply

Jeff May 27, 2013 at 12:11 am

On vertical placement by capacity, the positions of Tamnavulin, Tomintoul and Ben Nevis should be reviewed. Great work though, and I look forward to the revised edition.

Reply

Jeff May 27, 2013 at 12:55 am

Sorry, I think I made a mistake about Ben Nevis, but Tamnavulin & Tomintoul should be looked at.

Reply

Oliver Klimek May 27, 2013 at 6:24 am

Correct, they will be rearranged in the next update.

Reply

David June 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm

This periodic table is a beauty!

May I print it on a single t-shirt for my personal use only?

Thanks

Reply

Oliver Klimek June 9, 2013 at 10:19 pm

In principle yes, but I think it the writing would be very small.

Reply

Burkay Adalig January 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm

That’s a beautiful way of categorizing the distilleries and regions.
Hope you don’t mind me sharing this great tool in my blog (the only Turkish blog on whisky) http://www.meleklerinpayi.com/2014/01/viski-periyodik-tablosu.html (Meleklerin Payi: angels’ share in Turkish:))

Reply

Thei van Pol August 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Great to see, nice grouped by geography, will show it to our whisky club in Belgium and inform the whisky lovers in my shop in the Netherlands

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: