Glenlochy Distillery History

last update: 27 February2015

For a short summery see the table. More details are shown below.



David McAndie buys the ground at Fort William (An Gearasdan)

He sells it to Glenlochy Fort William Distillery Company
February 4th 1901 the production starts
Glenlochy is up for sale
The distillery is closed to conserve stocks of barley
Sold out to a consortium of Lancashire and Yorkshire brewers
Production starts again
Sold to Rankin Bros (car hire)
Sold to Train & McIntyre Ltd

Train & McIntyre´s subsidary, Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD) starts production.

Joseph Hobbs sells ASD (Train & McIntyre) to National Distillers USA
Joseph Hobbs buys Ben Nevis and Nevis Distillery from Macdonalds and sells Nevis (warehouse) to Train & McIntyre the same year

Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) buys Train & McIntyre and the control is passed over to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD)

A modernization and re-equipment program starts
Feb16th SMD took the decision to close the distillery and it closed May 31st
1986 An application to demolish the desillery building was made but this was rejected by the Lochaber District Council
West Coast Inns buys the property
The managers and two staff houses turned into The Distillery Guest House
The malt barn is converted to flats

Detailed history

The distillery was built 6th of November 1897 David Macandie bought the ground at Fort William for £2,000. He was a wine and spirit merchant, part owner of Glencawdor Distillery in Nairn which started up in October 1897 and proprietor of The Crown Mineral Water Company in Inverness.

At that time two distilleries were active in Fort William. The Ben Nevis distillery, built 1825 by John MacDonald (Long John) and Nevis Distillery built 1878. Both these distilleries were very big. Ben Nevis had a production of 3000 gallon per week and Nevis 260.000 gallons per year. Nevis Distillery employed more than 200 people, not just at the distillery, but also in the transport from the distillery to the own pier at Loch Linnhe.

The title included the water rights and the right to cut peat on Davenir Moss.
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The capital was £25,000 divided into 2000 ordinary and 500 deferred shares of £10 each. David McAndie also made an agreement with North British Railway Co in 1898 to bring in a siding. The railway between Glasgow and Fort William was inaugurated Aug 7th 1894.

David McAndie sold the site to Glenlochy (Fort William) Distillery Co at the price of £7,500 1898. He was paid £2,500 cash and the rest in deferred shares. It
Same year he also sold The New Market Inn in Inverness for £7,000.
This article was published in the Scottish Highlander May 12th, 1898.
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Glenlochy Distillery had May 3rd 1898 following seven share holders:
- David McAndie
- James Grant, owner of Highland Park Distillery in Kirkwall, Orkney
- John P. Elgin, wine merchant Inverness
- A, Stewart, wine merchant Inverness
- Alexander K. Linklaters, wine merchant Inverness
- Thomas Stewart McAllister, wine merchant Inverness
- James Clark
This photo shows James Grant (Highland Park). Thanks to Patrica at Highland Park for photo and to Martin Markvardsen for forwarding it.

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The directors from the start were Grant, McAndie and Elgin, but McAndie was replaced by Linklaters after some years and this "third" director changed many times. James Grant (1838- 1927) was director until it was sold 1920 and left Highland Park distillery 1924. (He should not be be mixed up with Major James Grant of Glen Grant 1847 - 1931)
Already 1898 the company got more share holders probably. Most of them were wine and spirit merchants in Inverness, but one was the architect, Duncan Cameron of Inverness who died 1899. The architect for the bonded warehouse, built 1904 was J Russell Burnett. The West Highland Railway reached Fort William in 1894 and Glenlochy Distillery was one of the first buildings built by brick.

Advertisement May 19thr 1898 Click on the image to expand/shrink

Advertisement in the Scotsman June 3rd 1899 Click on the image to expand/shrink

The stock of whiskies had increased by about 10 percent both 1897 and 1898 and was March 31st 1898 103.290,891 gallons or about 5 years consumption. (Aberdeen Journal Nov 25th 1899).

The original plan was to have a production of 3000 proof gallons per week. However half of the malting was converted into a bonded warehouse. Only three instead of four fermenting vessels were installed. The capacity was reduced to 1300 gallons. No houses except for office was built.
In December 1898 the "Pattison crash" came. The timing for Glenlochy and all new distilleries was not the best. The Pattison crash is very interesting and you can details about this if you follow this link THE PATTISON CRASH

As it was a difficult time to you can see below from the speech at the opening ceremony.
The first manager Allison, formally brewer at Balblair Distillery, was appointed in the spring of 1900. Production started on Feb 4th 1901. In the Inverness Courier Feb 12th 1901 there is an article about the opening ceremony and dinner. "Erected at a cost of £15,000, the new works are capable of mashing 1500 or more bushels per week, and we understand that the first brew, which was of excellent mellow quality has been entirely sold to one of the Directors." Mr John Macdonald, Ben Nevis said in his speach that he was pleased to welcome "the latest addition to their ranks, for thought there might be healthy competition there was no rivalry or jealousy amongst them"  and continued "last year had been the worst he had ever seen except one, and thought the present year was really going to be worse"

By 1905 the company had paid up capital of £15,290 in ordinary and £5,250 in deferred shares. The year before one of the main owners of Glenlochy Mr Lachlan Andrew Macpherson (Corriemony Inverness-shire) died 60 years old. His shares were taken over by his wife Elizabeth.
A visitor reported in 1907 that Glenlochy possessed "every modern facility for enabling it to be worked with a minimum of labour, five men being sufficient for that purpose"
The cost of the site and buildings was given as £22,184.13s 5d at 30th June 1908.

Glenlochy Distillery was up for sale in 1913 but it was not sold.
sale Advertisement in the Scotsman April 30th 1913 Click on the image to expand/shrink

All malt whisky distilleries were shut down in 1917 to conserve stocks of barley.
In 1916 the main shareholders were Mrs MacPherson (500 - widow, Corrimony), James Grant (250 -Highland Park Distillery), Andrew MacDonald (250 - Solicitor Inverness), James Kennedy and James Clark (250 together). Glenlochy was still closed in 1920 when the shareholders sold out to a consortium of Lancashire and Yorkshire Brewery companies:
- Massey´s Burnley Brewery Co Ltd
- The Barnsley Brewery Co Ltd
- John Kenyon & Co Ltd of Rossendale Brewery
- Nuttall & Co Ltd
The purchase took almost 1.5 year. One of the limitation was that there were no housed for the crew. "it would be very difficult to carry on for long without them (houses) as it would be impossible to import any but single men" (from report by Mr James Risk July 1919).

As per the information in "Distilleries History Series" Glenlochy did not resume production until 1924. However I found this advert from April 2nd 1924 about whisky produced at Glenlochy 1922 sold in London by the broker W.T Restell.
whisky22 Click on the image to expand/shrink

The distillery was on auction in August 1934 and the buildings and site were sold for £850,00 to Thomas L. Rankin, Rankin Bros end of 1934.
1934 Advertisement in the Scotsman November 26th 1934
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In October 1935 it was tentative negotiation between the British Oxygen Company and the owners for the purchase of the distillery. This was part of a plan to use water power in Lochaber. The strong opposition from people were the water power was to be obtained stopped the project.
Train & McIntyre Ltd, brewers, distillers and wine merchants of Glasgow bought the property for £3500 in 1937 and it's subsidiary, Associated Scottish Distillers Ltd restarted production in the 1938.
The motive forced behind both companies was Joseph Hobbs, a remarkable entrepreneur who emigrated to Canada in his childhood and subsequently made a fortune, mainly in shipbuilding and property development. According to his obituarissist in the times, he sustained heavily losses in the economic depression of 1920-21 and returned to Great Britain with less than £1000.
There, with the help of financial backers, he began to build up run-down assets in the Scotch Whisky Industry. Joseph Hobbs was born 1891 and returned from 1929 and was involved in many other distilleries (Glenury 1936, Bruichladdich 1937, Glenkinchie 1937, Glenesk/Hillside 1938 (all through ASD) and Ben Nevis 1944 and Lochside 1957).

In 1932/1933 the new Nevis bridge was built about 120 m west of the old Nevis bridge. The new road divided the distillery. West of the road was the distillery and office. The old managers house was now east of the road (Today Glenlochy Apartments (Glenlochy Guest House)).

In 1937 the Glenlochy Distillery company asked the Fort William Town Council for a supply of 40,000 gallons of water weekly. The outbreak of war in 1939 interrupted Scotch Whisky making again and in the following year Hobbs sold Associated Scottish Distillers Ltd (ASD) for £38,000 and an option to buy stocks of whisky valued at £250,000.

In 1944 Joseph Hobbs bought Ben Nevis distillery from D.P MacDonald together with 17 warehouses. Some of these were located at Nevis distillery and he sold it to Glenlochy the same year. It is said that between buying and selling, the gates and walls of Nevis was dismantled and moved to Ben Nevis distillery. They do not match the opening.....
The gates are mentioned in the chapter about Nevis Distillery in the book by Alfred Barnard. I recommend everyone to read this chapter describing the boat journey from Oban, the scenery and the distillery. Nevis distillery started 1878 and closed 1908 (The distillery is sometimes called Glen Nevis Distillery). It was placed closer to the city. It had 7 stills and produced almost 1.2 million litres 1884. (Long John Whisky)
Gate from Nevis Distillery now at Ben Nevis Dsistillery (Photo 2012 Louis Reps).
Joseph Hobbs also bought the Inverlochy Castle in 1944, which his son took over after his death. Inverlochy Castle is today a hotel. He also bought a steamer, which originally was built for the Admiralty to be used during the First World War. It was then a yacht, owned by the Guiness family, the Duke of Leeds and others.. Hobbs bought it during the 1960s. It is now a floating restaurant in Leith - Cruz - just 250 meters from Scottish Malt Whisky Society in Leith.
Ocean Mist at Banavie Caledonian Canal 1978 -                                                                       Cruz  in Leith  Photo: Louis Reps 2011
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More details about Ocean Mist

These images are extracts from a log book by the brewer Peter Logie. The images are from his son, Graham Logie - now distillery manager at Glenfiddich Distillery.

ocean General Brewing Report 1949/1950
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ocean Mashing Report 1949/1950
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ocean Fermentation Report 1949/1950
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ocean Distilling Report 1949/1950
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ocean Brewing Report 1949/1950
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ASD was sold by national distillers of the USA, to the ownership of DCL´s subsidiary, Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd (SMD). The modernisation Glenlochy was shared in SMD´s step-by-step programme of modernisation and re-equipment. To see drawings from 1959 - go to this page or chose from the left menu. The distillery at the time of the purchase was already connected to the electric grid, but waterpower was still used to some extent until 1960. The furnaces of its two pot stills, previously fired by hand, were converted to a mechanical coal-stoking system in 1965.

According to some information Glenlochy was closed again 1968. However in 1968 DCL closed the floor malting at about 26 distilleries and one of them was Glenlochy. There are bottlings from 1969 (Rare Malts) so it can not have been closed for a long time. The steam engine and the railway siding went out of use in 1970. The pot stills were converted to internal heating system by steam from an oil-fired boiler in 1971.
During the 70s Fort William Shinty Club used the Distillery warehouses and grounds for training.

The mash house and tun room partially rebuilt and re-equipped in 1976. The source of both process and cooling water was the Nevis.

The production was 10.000 - 12.000  litres of spirit per week. All the Glenlochy production went to blended whisky. Glenlochy went into following blends: White Horse, Dewars, Johnnie Walker, Haigs and Queen Ann. These blending companies supplied the casks for maturing and got samples of the new spirit. Some whisky went direct to the blending company and some was kept in Fort William.

The malted barley was taken from sources within SMD and was lightly peated. 
- 4 Wooden wash backs (29,000 litres)
- 1 Wash still (14,580 litres)
- 1 Spirit still (14,380 litres)
- 1 Spirit Safe (Archibald McMillan Ltd)

Glenlochy had own floor malting but this closed 1968 but malt was also taken from Lochaber Maltings (closed around 1969 - ex Nevis Distiliery closed 1908), Ord Maltings and others. The third pagoda (now demolished) had a lift for the malt. On the roof on the malt barns "Glenlochy" was written with big letters on the slates. During the 70s the Planning Authority objected and slates were turned over.
In the front are the offices with decorative ironworks.

No single malt whisky was ever bottled by the Glenlochy with exception of the Diageo Rare Malts Selection (all distilled 1969). The casks were stored at the warehouse at Glenlochy but also at a bigger warehouse, Lochaber warehouse where also casks from other distilleries where stored. From 1979 until 1981 the distillery run without longer shuts. In 1981 the production was stopped for about 3 months. When it started it produced 4 days a week.

February 16th, 1983 SMD took the decision to close Glenlochy together with about 10 other malt distilleries and one grain Distillery. Out of 17 employed at Glenlochy 11 was made redundant. Totally 530 were people lost their jobs. The profit of SMD and the dividend increased 1982. The new financial Director Robert Temple, who was appointed in December 1982, said same month: "Demand is what the game is all about, and the Distillers find themselves with plenty of money, plenty of whisky and a shortage of customers" The production stopped May 31st 1983.

These drawings show the destillery before it was converted to apartments. Many thanks to Ronnie Neil (Bruce & Neil Chartered Architechts, Oban) for the drawings. ocean ocean ocean

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The filling station, excise office and brewer's office are now three self-catering cottages.
Photo: 2012 Louis Reps

1983 about 12 people worked at the distillery (see crew for the names) and a few more at the warehouse. The distillery manager Mike Gunn went to Cragganmore Distillery.

In April 1986 SMD applied to demolish Glenlochy, but it was rejected by the Lochaber District Council. The warehouses were demolished later. It then lay empty until January 1992 when it was sold to West Coast Inns on condition that it could not be used in the future as distillery.
Highland News Group April 1986

The two stills were sold to another distillery (not known). The wood from the mash tun was used for making windows at the Pub Volunteer Arms on High Street in Fort William.

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Photos: Lasse Holm 2012

In 1992 the managers and 2 of the staff houses were refurbished and turned into Distillery Guest House.

In 1994 the demolition of the warehouses were helped by a storm. The roof ended up on the A82 road, but no person was injured.

In May 2005 the work started to convert the malt barn to flats and in September 2006 the work was completed (10 x 2 bedroom flats and 6 x 1 bedroom flats). Two out of the threes pagodas are left.
Photo: Thomas Sundblom September 2005

souces: The Distillery Guest House
            "Distillery History Series" by Brian Spiller
            Inverness Courier (Inverness Reference Library)
            Scottish Highlander  (Inverness Reference Library)
            Whisky Magazine #81 Gavin D. Smith
            Mike Gunn (last distillery manager)
            Derek and Bernadine Claase
            Hughie Cameron (worked for distillery)
            Graham Logie
            "The Whisky Distilleries of Scotland and Ireland" by Philip Morrice
            "The Highland & Islands" by Francis Thompson