The enduring mystery of the Glen Albyn pipe

After our initial foray into the mystery of a pipe linking Glen Albyn Distillery to a nearby inn - both owned by the same individual - the conclusion was that the legend did have substance, but more research was necessary. And so it has proven to be the case.

My thanks to whisky bookworm, Mark Davidson, for highlighting a mention in Scotland's Malt Whiskies by John Wilson, which takes its roots from a tour of the distillery, featuring the author and possibly, William Birnie; son of John Birnie who was formerly the Glen Albyn manager in the 1880s. William from what we know was always on site, or nearby, even during his advanced years. Even if it wasn't William it person, it seems reasonable that such stories were passed down through the team via the family legacy.

The entry itself must come from such a visit and exchange of tales, as we know William was well versed in Scotch and his family's distilleries, if only more records existed of such tours and the tales that accompanied the walk around either distillery...

'There is a story that in the old days a pipe was laid from the spirit safe in Glen Albyn distillery to a public house nearby. The layer of the pipe was shipped to Australia, but returned a few years later and informed the Excise, so there, the story runs, was a pub that lost its licence and clients a ready source of refreshment!'

An interesting nugget, because it confirms the pipe reached the spirit safe and not elsewhere in the distillery. Also, we know the individual who laid it vanished down under for a while - interesting to see that upon his return he told the authorities. Perhaps a sudden burst of honesty or revenge on the owner, who we know was divisive? It explains in part why the pipe was not immediately, and possibly, may never have been if it wasn't for his confession.

So, more to underline the legend and there was indeed a pipe.

What's also of interest is that in the book, published in 1973 and in 1974, only Glen Mhor represents the Mackinlay & Birnie distilleries. This tale is provided as a nugget in the Glen Mhor chaper, which also goes to underline it lacked something of similar intrigue, the company emphasis on Mhor being a single malt is reinforced; Glen Albyn is not (at the time of origin at least) available on the UK market. The timeline is important as well, as if John Wilson toured both sites in 1971 or 1972, this would have been at the very end of their independent existence, before D.C.L. took over. Indeed, in the index, Glen Mhor is noted to be owned by D.C.L., with my book coming from 1973.

Despite being neighbours, are completely different whiskies; Glen Albyn uses the same water, and almost identical equipment, yet both whiskies can be easily told apart. It's easy to throw both together as being similar due to their proximity, but we know that's far from the case and part of motivation of this research, to establish Glen Albyn's own identity.


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