Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Pittyvaich, Fourth In Series Spotlighting Mothballed Distilleries
What you need to know:
- Johnnie Walker Blue's Ghost and Rare collection is in its fourth edition, featuring a Speyside distillery with perhaps the shortest history - Pittyvaich.
- Pittyvaich was operational from 1974 to 1993 and was built to support neighboring distillery Dufftown Distillery.
- “Pittyvaich’s distinct autumnal character has always intrigued us and fired our imagination to create something really special that would pay tribute to the whisky makers of this Speyside distillery.”
- The blend will also contain grain whiskies from Port Dundas and Carsebridge, and Speysiders such as Mannochmore, Auchroisk, Cragganmore and Strathmill and Royal Lochnagar.
- RRP 275 GBP or 375 USD and will be available from 1 November 2021, with each bottle individually numbered.
- Past releases featured Glenury Royal, Brora and Port Ellen.
- Cop the Drop or Not Verdict: Not
- Read our take on Pittyvaich down below!
(Image Source: Johnnie Walker, Old Farmer's Almanac)
There’s always a fascination for what remains of the past, isn’t that why antique stores exist? And museums, auctions, even in our homes, we wouldn’t be hardpressed to find trinkets or little memorabilia of the past.
We treasure it that much more, because we are well aware that this is all that remains. Symbolically, these blasts from the pasts are our surviving ties to a time gone; a portal or time machine if you will, that allows us to glimpse with our imaginations into what it was like before; maybe even before us.
Some collect handicapped Greek statues, some collect Johnnie Walker Blue Ghost and Rare. (Image Source: The New Yorker)
Enough amateur poetry!
We’re here to talk about some distilleries that don’t exist anymore. These are known as mothballed distilleries and big brands like Diageo have over the decades scooped up a couple of ‘em.
The colors of Johnnie Walker. (Image Source: Bottled Prices)
Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Blue – the most premium color of Johnnie Walker (in ascending order of premium-ness, Red, Black, Green, Gold, Blue), represents the blend’s most exceptional and rare whiskies. To highlight the use of some of the rarest of them all, Johnnie Walker Blue’s Ghost and Rare collection, launched in 2017, looks to shine a light on some of these mothballed distilleries, containing what little stock that remains of them.
Past releases have focused on ghost distilleries including Glenury Royal, Port Ellen and Brora. (Image Source: Luxury Launches)
Since the inaugural launch in 2017, the collection has featured the likes of Glenury Royal, Port Ellen and Brora.
Now, in its fourth edition, the collection will feature what is perhaps one of the shortest lived distilleries – Pittyvaich.
Some of you may know Pittyvaich from Diageo’s annual limited Special Releases or the older Flora & Fauna series, but little spotlight has been given singularly to this peculiar Speyside distillery.
A bygone era where whisky distilleries looked like any other warehouse or big box retailer. Visitor experience center is basically Sanskit to them. (Image Source: Whisky.com)
For those less acquainted, Pittyvaich Distillery existed from 1974 to 1993, only racking up 18 years of production before its closure. In fact, it was built with the objective in mind to be the sister distillery for neighboring Dufftown Distillery. It was eventually completely demolished in 2002 and to be quite honest, no one really knows why it was shuttered.
Given that not many expressions of Pittyvaich exists, we can only piece together what might be the distillery’s character – fruity with apples and oranges, malty with baking spices, honeyed sweetness, an oily texture, notes of tinned olives, briny, bitter and slightly astringent, great complexity.
“We have waited patiently for the perfect moment to showcase this rare gem of the whisky world,
Pittyvaich may only have thrived for a short period, but the whisky laid down by this distillery is something unmistakable.”
- Master Blender Jim Beveridge
However, as this is a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue blended whisky, it will contain several other whiskies such as grain whiskies like Port Dundas and Carsebridge, Speysiders such as Mannochmore, Auchroisk, Cragganmore and Strathmill and Royal Lochnagar. Of course, Pittyvaich malt will remain at the heart and soul of this blend.
(Image Source: The Drinks Business)
“Pittyvaich’s distinct autumnal character has always intrigued us and fired our imagination to create something really special that would pay tribute to the whisky makers of this Speyside distillery.”
- Jim Beveridge
This will retail for RRP 275 GBP or 375 USD and will be available from 1 November 2021, with each bottle individually numbered.
To be quite frank, when I first saw the inaugural launch of JW Blue’s Ghost and Rare, truth be told, I did not expect it to fly. I had my doubts as to whether collectors would embrace a blend that contained an unspecified amount of ghost whisky from the specific distillery. I think it is pretty clear that this is targeted towards collectors rather than drinkers, as drinkers would likely prefer to isolate the single malt the blend is named after and chase down one from any number of series such as the Flora & Fauna, the Special Releases, or even the Rare Malts Selection. Even beyond Diageo, it is not incredibly difficult to find one (at the expense of your wallet) from any number of independent bottlers.
There are some wild Johnnie Walkers out there, and as one of the longest running whisky brands, there is more than enough in the JW universe to spend your life collecting them. This is a Korean Edition JW Blue The Casks Edition. (Image Source: Whisky Auctioneer)
But it turns out, much to my surprise, that the JW Blue Ghost and Rare series has been a huge hit with collectors, particularly a niche group of collectors focused solely on JW bottlings. Who would have thought!
That said, I remain skeptical. I think the value proposition for the previous editions, of Port Ellen and Brora, were an easy sell, I am less certain about the reception for the Glenury Royal, though it is a great distillery with great single malts. With Pittyvaich, I think this might be the toughest sell of the four, given how few collectors and enthusiasts know of Pittyvaich. It may be mothballed but it isn’t one of the sacred trio (Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank). Much like art, you could have art from many artists long gone, but that status in and of itself is not the by and end all as to its perceived value.
The collector's sacred trio: Rosebank, Brora and Port Ellen. (Image Source: The Whisky Lady)
I’ve only tried Pittyvaich once – the 30 Year Old from Diageo’s 2020 Special Releases – and while it was certainly intriguing, a fruit bomb, good dollops of cream to go with it, and then picture a huge bowl of Greek salad, super leafy and green, with notes of chlorophyll that you’ll find with a freshly washed bowl of greens just plucked from the garden. From my conversations, most others who tried it also found the leafy notes just a tad peculiar.
That said, some more determined fans I’ve met who’ve hunted down other bottlings of Pittyvaich have told me that the good ones are simply sublime, with loads of fruit, baking spice, honey, great complexity and texture, though I’ve yet to myself verify this. But I am open to changing my mind.
In any case, I could imagine if you’re a JW collector and you’ve come this far and have bagged the last three releases, you can’t stop now can you?
Cop the Drop of Not Verdict: Not