Which Scotch distilleries could reopen next?

Imbibe Editorial

16 October 2017

After Diageo’s announcement last week of the reopening of Port Ellen and Brora, Dave Broom looks at nine of Scotland’s sleeping beauties to see which, if any, might follow them into the 21st century

Convalmore was opened in the optimistic boom of the late 1890s. Situated in Dufftown, it once had a column still running 100% malted barley. Owned by DCL, like all of the distilleries on this list it fell silent in the great cull of the early 80s when the Scotch industry was in serious surplus. Its buildings are now used as storage by William Grant & Sons.

Bottlings have shown it to be a remarkable, waxy, whisky. On those showings alone it should be revived. Will it? Unlikely, as Grants has three distilleries on the site already. Nearby Parkmore, though silent since the 1930s, is architecturally sound. Edrington owns the buildings. Does it need another single malt brand? Who knows.

Inverness, capital of the Highlands, tourist destination and fast-expanding city, used to have three distilleries. Now it has none, leaving a whisky-shaped hole at its heart. Millburn was the oldest (it began at the start of the 19th century) and though it closed in ’85, subsequent bottlings have shown it to have made excellent whisky.

Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn were situated next to each other on the Caledonian Canal, the former making a smokier style. Both were closed in 1983. With whisky tourism on the rise it makes commercial sense for 'Sneckie to have one distillery. Trouble is, the buildings have been demolished.

You could argue a similar case for Aberdeen’s lost distilleries, but as there’s no trace of the original sites, I’d rather look further down the east coast which is underpopulated in whisky terms.

It must have been an interesting conversation when DCL (as was) told the Queen that Glenury-Royal was to close in 1985. The Stonehaven distillery had held a Royal Warrant since the reign of King William IV. Built by the remarkable Cap Robert Barclay, (who once walked 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours for 1,000 guineas). It too, though, is demolished.

Sadly, the same goes for Montrose’s Lochside which ceased to exist in 1997. In the 1960s, it had a Coffey still and pots and ‘blended at birth’.

If there is to be an east coast resurrection, the most likely candidate would be Glenesk. Also in Montrose, it started as a malt distillery in the 19th century, then became a maltings, then a grain distillery (Montrose), then in the ‘60s a malt distillery again (Hillside/Glenesk). Though the distillery buildings have shuffled off this mortal coil, the maltings remain. Just sayin’!

From a Glaswegian perspective I’d love to see whisky being made again at the Port Dundas site if only because rather than more single malt distilleries, it might be interesting to revive a grain plant (albeit on a smaller scale) should the single grain category begin to grow.

Could any of these reopen? I’d say it’s unlikely, but after last week anything could happen.

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