To collectors, connoisseurs and people intrigued by whisky investment, there are two simple words that can cause a great deal of excitement and a sense of adventure: silent distillery.
A silent distillery is at its broadest definition, any distillery that no longer makes whisky, but as is so often the case with the rich storytelling tradition of whisky making, it tells a fascinating story not only from the casks it left behind but also by what caused this silence.
Silent distilleries are not often closed for uninteresting, unromantic reasons such as changing market conditions, financial struggles or being forced to close and simply never opening again.
There are two kinds of silent distilleries; there are the “mothballed”, which are those that have been closed but with the potential for opening again, and those that have been completely shut down, with their equipment sold or destroyed and the building demolished or repurposed.
For investors and collectors alike, silent distilleries are fascinating because they provide an ending to the story and a sense that they own a piece of a history that not only will never see another chapter and is disappearing at a rapid rate.
The reasons why these distilleries closed in the first place is often a painful and aggravating subject for many people fascinated by the topic and largely relates to the rapid changes in the Scotch whisky industry.
There are three main extinction events that caused the closure of vast swathes of distilleries.
The first was The Great Depression, which whilst primarily an American issue affected the whisky industry and led to 70 closing down. Just as it looked to be settling, the Second World War and the Battle of Britain led to vast shutdowns of the entire industry, with some still never opening again.
There was a boom for the industry that lasted over 30 years, with blended whisky, in particular, being very popular and leading to the rise of huge whisky conglomerates such as Diageo and Suntory.
Then 1983 hit hard, and a huge number of stills closed. It took the rise of the single malt connoisseur to change the fortunes of the industry, which led to a renewed interest in these former distilleries, to the point that several reopened after having been mothballed for years.