As whisky continues to boom, prices of bottles of closed distilleries also enjoy higher and higher values. A byproduct of this is that many of the deleted whisky books themselves also enjoy a new life; a scarcity and perceived value.
Many are not financially viable to be reprinted, their wisdom and imperfections are lost to time. Here, on this page, we'll devour and assimilate every punch of a typewriter when it comes to the collective written works, or thoughts, on Glen Albyn. The works themselves remain the property of their respective authors.
In doing this, we hope that you will learn and appreciate Glen Albyn even more. And save yourself a few pennies by not chasing down rare books only to be disappointed by the contents.
My searching so far confirms there is very little written about Glen Albyn, less than Glen Mhor that's for sure. That's despite being a much older distillery. The whisky books of the 1970s and beyond all stick to the same core fundamentals and make references to the canal, Glen Mhor etc. That regurgitation thing again...
Bluff Your Way in Whisky, David Milstead, 1991
'Tell the story of two single malt whiskies Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn —the produce of two distilleries situated — a few hundred yards apart on the banks of the Rivér Ness. Both, according to reliable authority, use the same malt, peat, yeast, size and type of still and cask: each is matured for the same period. Yet the difference in taste between the two is unmistakable. The only thing that could possibly account for this is the water: each draws its supply from a different source in the river. This, at any rate, was the story of their late proprietor, and if he was prepared to stick to it, we can too.'
DCL Distillery Histories Series, Brian Spiller, 1981-1983
'Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor Distilleries face one another across the Great North Road, on the western outskirts of Inverness. They abut on the Caledonian Canal, at the point where it falls in a series of five locks into the Muirtown Basin. Loch Ness, part of the waterway which links the west and east coasts, supplies water for both distilleries; it lies in the Great Glen of Albyn, from which their names derive. They were once competitors and are now worked in double harness The whiskies they make are quite different in character.
Glen Albyn is the older distillery. It is said to have been built on the ruins of Muirtown Brewery, which catered for the thirst of the men who built the canal. The Inverness Courier for 10 January 1840 reported the opening ceremony, when the founder, Provost James Sutherland, was presented with a service of plate to mark his enterprise. Trade was reviving at Inverness in this period, thanks to faster and cheaper communications. Steamships now sailed twice a week through the Canal to Glasgow, and weekly round the east coast to Leith. So it is possible that Sutherland may have been attracted by the prospect of sales in the great urban markets.
The Courier stated on 22 November 1849 that the main building had been destroyed by fire, and estimated the damage at between £4,000 and £5,000. Rebuilding was said to be proceeding in January 1850; by 1852 the distillery was working again; but in 1855 Sutherland's assets were sequesterated. The buildings, briefly used as a flour mill, were unoccupied for about twenty years. A.M. Gregory, a grain merchant, acquired the site in 1884 and built an entirely new distillery, with the same name. The distillery had a direct link, by private siding, to the railway.
Harpers Weekly, a trade journal, reported in 1892 that the premises had been considerably enlarged, notably by the addition of a second range of bonded warehouses. Annual output had more than trebled within the last five years. "The growth of the business" (it commented) "is largely due ot the active management of Mr John Birnie, the manager and distiller, who is well qualified for the responsible position he occupies." It is said that Birnie was frustrated in his ambition to gain a shareholding in Glen Albyn. In 1892, in partnership with Charles Mackinlay & Co., whisky and wine merchants, of Leith, he acquired a site just across the road from his old shop, and established Glen Mhor Distillery, trading as Mackinlays and Birnie.'
Guide to the whiskies of Scotland, Derek Cooper, 1978
'In the eighteenth century Inverness was the chief malting town in Scotland and it enjoyed a near monopoly of the trade supplying most of the northern counties and the Hebrides. Glen Albyn was built on the ruins of one of the many breweries in the town in 1846. In 1866 its licence was revoked because of alleged smuggling and it was converted into a flour mill. In 1884 it was re-sited alongside the entrance to Telford’s Caledonian canal. Its output is used for blending. Nearby is the company’s other distillery, Glen Mhor; although it too draws its water from Loch Ness its whisky has an entirely different taste.'
Gordon & MacPhail, 2019
'Glen Albyn Distillery has weathered turbulent waters almost from its founding in 1846. Built in Inverness, on the site of a brewery, Glen Albyn distilled until a devastating fire in November 1849 forced its closure. Up and running again in 1850, the distillery fell silent within its first decade; by 1866, the site had been transformed into a flour mill. Glen Albyn Distillery’s life was renewed in 1884 when it was purchase and rebuilt by Grigor & Co. Glen Albyn Distillery soon developed into a lucrative business with an estimated output of 75,000 gallons of spirit produced yearly. This single malt Scotch whisky was condensed using very unusual ‘D’ shaped worm tubs; these increased the cooling efficiency and adding to the flavour of its distinctive spirit. In 1983, along with a host of other distilleries, Glen Albyn was mothballed and eventually demolished and developed into a grocery store.'
Malt Whisky File, John Lamond, 1995
'Founded by James Sutherland, the then Provost of Inverness on the ruins of Muirtown Brewery which had catered for the thirst of men who built the Caledonian Canal. Rebuilt in 1884 after being used as a flour mill following a period of disuse. Acquired in 1972 by DCL from Mackinlay and Birnie Ltd., a company owned by 14 members of the Mackinlay family of the Leith distillers and 11 members of the local Birnie family, John Birnie having been the manager and distiller in 1892. Managed by SMD until its demolition in 1988, distilling having ceased in 1983. When operational it had two stills.
Location - Glen Albyn was situated on the east sie of the A9 to the north of Inverness. It faced Glen Mhor distillery across the Great North Road where it crosses the Caledonian Canal.
Notes - The distillery was closed between 1917 and 1919 and used as a U.S. Naval base for the manufacture of mines. For a long time supplies were delivered by sea. Demolished in 1988 along with Glen Mhor, to make way for a supermarket development. Priot to 1745 Inverness had been the chief malting town in Scotland.
Water - Loch Ness.'
Scotland's Malt Whiskies, John Wilson, 1973
Glen Mhor also own a distillery of similar size and output only 100 yards away, Glen Albyn uses the same water, and almost identical equipment, yet both whiskies can be easily told apart.
Scotch Whisky dot com
'Of the new distilleries founded during the late 19th century, Glen Albyn was notable for its uniquely shaped worm tubs, which were shaped into the letter D with the flat side down to cool the spirit quickly.'
Scotch Whisky, Gavin D. Smith, 2000
'The Highland capital of Inverness has grown in size dramatically during the past two decades, but in that time the town has seen its links with distilling disappear. More than a dozen distilleries are recorded as having existed in Inverness at various times, and three survived until the 1980s. Some of Millburn distillery is still extant, but the other two Inverness distilleries were not so lucky, and no trace remains of either Glen Albyn or Glen Mhor, which formerly stood on the western outskirts of the town.'
'Glen Albyn was built in 1844 beside the Caledonian Canal, on the site of one of Inverness' many breweries, but after periods of silence and use as a flour mill it was rebuilt in 1884. Eight years later its owners constructed a nearby distillery between the canal and the River Ness, which they called Glen Mhor, Gaelic for the Great Glen. In 1972 the two distilleries were bought by DCL, and both fell victim to the 1980s cutbacks, ceasing production in 1983, and being demolished three years later to make way for a retail development.'
The hub of the Highlands : the book of Inverness and district, Inverness Field Club, 1990
'Inverness was famed for years as a malting town. Millburn Distillery and Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor Distilleries have been producing for 100 years, making their own malt, although great problems arose when America introduced prohibition in 1923. All these distilleries are now owned by two large Scottish concerns, although the last was privately owned until recently.'
'In 1846 (a hundred years after Culloden), when ‘“‘the heroic age’’ was over and the Government had set aside armed force, replacing it with the exaction of a distilling licence fee and “a reasonable duty,”’ the demand for whisky had begun to outstrip supply, and a number of new distilleries were being established. Glen Albyn Distillery in Inverness was one of them. It was established by the then Provost of the town on the bank of Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal, near its northern end. As a further link over the preceding 100 years, it is said that the new distillery’ was built on the site of one of the many pre-Culloden maltings in and around Inverness which had been swept away during the Military Occupation.
Glen Albyn as a name is sometimes used for the whole of the geological fault-line of the Great Glen, whilst Albyn or Albainn is the old name for Scotland. Despite the ancient historical name, the distillery only lasted for twenty years before being converted into a flour mill. In 1884, it was rebuilt as a distillery by Messrs Gregory & Co., and soon after this it was producing 75,000 proof gallons per annum of Highland Malt Whisky. In recent years, none of the output has been bottled as a single or unblended malt whisky, but has found its way into many of the top brands of blended Scotch. Some idea of the improvement in distilling methods and efficiency may be gauged from the fact that today’s output is at an annual rate of 320,000 gallons!
The new Glen Albyn was not to be on its own beside the Caledonian Canal for long. In 1892, the Birnie family, in the person of Provost Birnie of Inverness (how these civic dignitaries keep getting into the act!) built, and mis-spelled, Glen Mhor Distillery just to the south of the older distillery.'
'That success brings its own dangers with it, will be evident from the foregoing paragraph, and yet it must have been a very sad day for the late Mr William Birnie, the son of the Provost founder of Glen Mhor. Mr Birnie, then in his mid- eighties and who died earlier this year (1973), confirmed to the writer and to the local Press in Inverness that the deal, about which there had been so many rumours and reports in the town, had indeed gone through, and that Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor Distilleries had now been taken over by the Distillers Company Limited.'
The Northern Barrage, Inverness Local History, 2020
‘Conversion of the three-storey granaries and other quayside buildings was begun, with the upper floors converted into dormitories and the ground floor turned into a mess room. The ground floor of one of the quayside buildings, 70 feet long by 50 feet wide, was adapted for use as a motor garage, general stores and canteen. The bonded store, measuring 190 feet by 94 feet and containing two floors, was converted into a store for sinkers, component parts, clothing and general stores.’
Whisky with Dinner, Bernard E. Poirier, 1991
'Glen Albyn - medium amber and medium legs. Gentle and slightly airy for a Caledonian. Medium well-balanced body with attendant aftertaste. Food: this is the Caledonian equivalent of the Lowland’s Deanston. Will go well with anything but soft cheese. Keep in mind the fuller body than Deanston and therefore its propensity to heavier foods—cuts the rich ones nicely.'
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