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The ultimate(?) Lochside tasting Edinburgh

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The ultimate(?) Lochside tasting Edinburgh

Postby jmrl » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:05 pm

I've told you a million times I don't exaggerate and I'm not a fan of marketing pish but I've not heard of a more comprehensive look at Lochside:-

Macnab's Blend - bloody hard to get this one, many thanks to Dave Archer for sourcing it and not keeping it for his own collection, he specialises in east coast drams particularly closed ones. And thanks too for him for sending a miniature of it which he paid the grandson of the last owner of Bathgate's Glenmavis distillery which Joseph Hobbs bought. Dave also hooked me up with the last manager at Lochside - Charlie Sharpe who has been extremely helpful in my research.

Macnab Lochside 10yo 40% (bottles late 80's/early 90's) My boss bought several cases of this in 1992 from Jamie before he set up the Adelphi bottlers. I've yet to taste this and have waited 15 years, bottled at the distillery no less.

Lochside single blend 1964 - 2006 47.7% Scott's Selection - we've tried this before and it was sublime How rare do you like your drams?.

Lochside single grain 31yo May 1962 - Feb. 1994 56.7% Cadenheads - another one we've had before but a perfect example of just how good grain can be - I doubt there is much more than a thousand bottles of any bottling of Lochside grain ever bottled.

Lochside single malt 23yo 1981 - 04/2004 55.1% sherry hogshead Cadenheads. I cracked this this week and it's even better than I hoped, I must have tried it when we bottled it but have forgotten it - we did quite a few good sherry cask Lochsides around this time.

Very unfortunately the owners of Hobbs's old boat - now called 'Cruz@ the floating pub on the Water of Leith do not seem interested in us doing the tasting on board which would have been ideal so we'll be at the Kilderkin as usual - I'll get someone to chuck buckets of water at the windows to give it a maritime feel.

Thursday October 3rd 7.30pm Sorry folks its going to be expensive - £50.
jmrl
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Re: The ultimate(?) Lochside tasting Edinburgh

Postby jmrl » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:11 pm

The Lochside tasting write up.

We started with the 5yo Macnab's blend. I'm not sure how important this was to Joseph Hobbs as he was into the big picture and this was a product made on a relatively small scale within a busy market place. I beleive it was attempted in the USA and seems to have appeared in Japan. It was certainly super trickey to actually get one's hand on a bottle for the tasting, even this part of the story requires a passage... my new friend Dave who hails from the same part of the world as our featured dram was inspired to help in the search, neither of us expected such a challenge. After placing an advert in the local Montrose paper Dave discovered that it would cost us £180+ to get a bottle, poo! But we understood it was a seller's market so with patience he secured one alongside other unexciting blends at auction in the Blackpool area for a more modest price. Ironically the very regular (I'm not talking about bowel movements) Alistair told me two weeks before the tasting his mate had a bottle: the guy lives a quarter of a mile from my house! His price? Three tickets to the tasting: Sold.

I'll eventually post the full Lochside research but I want to wait until it has been edited by the individuals who have first hand knowledge and experience of the time in Montrose, for now we'll go with a write up of the tasting.

At £47 I wondered if I'd over stepped the mark but apparently not as it was sold out (more of these venutres to come me thinks). There was a mixture of regulars, a few who I had not met before but brought by regulars and actually two American tourists who were up for it.

The Sandy Macnab's had the nose of a long in bottle blend, the donator told me it was given to him by his grand parents, remember the distillery operated between 1954 and 1992 - the blend was available for only a part of this time. The gentle texture, sweet, slight nose and ever so slightly perfumed palate was understandably popular. Bottle aging at its best I suspect.

Next was the the standard 10yo 40%, breifly bottled in the late 80s and early 90s. I'd been looking at this bottle for 14 years before tasting it last Thursday so eventually tasting it was particularly pleasing. Very luckily I made contact with the last manager of the distillery, Charlie Sharpe, he told me how he pushed the idea to Hobbs about selling the single expresion. My boss bought several dozen from Jamie Walker (ex-Adelphi) when he was an agent for the brand some moons ago - a good move. The dram wasn't the most popular but quite a few people saw the light, on the night I remember an aniseed element which I'm not getting now but that might have been the pizza. Never the less it is a very well balanced fruity delicate number that has a particularly pleasing quality that would have presumably been more impresssive had it not been filtered or bottled at 40%. Although I understand it was all bottled on site.

Next we had, for the third time at these tastings, one of the rarest drams I know of- Lochside single grain. I'm not so sure this is as ideal an example of grain as it is so velvety and seemless and perfect that no other grain reaches the parts this one does, who cares it is delicious. It scored 79% of votes - in the top 0.2% of scores from 10+ years of scrutiny at these tastings. Old but fresh, gentle but assertive, dry but fruity, delicate yet intense. Perfect flavour, in putting this tasting together this was part of the inspiration - wait until you read about the owner Joseph Hobbs - he too was inspiring, what fun. I've still got a bottle of this stashed away - I feel very smug.

When Scott's Selection bottled the single blend a few years ago I could hardly believe it, this was the stuff of legend, and it was delicious, we tried it at the time and it cost about £95 - probably one of the best bargains in whisky history. It scored 79% too - a double whammy, The Whisky Exchange and Adelphi have bottled some of these casks and I hear they are wondeful too. from sherry casks which I doubt this one was - a tantalising alternative.
The dram is so feather light it is akin to a humming bird, a long rich fruity finish underlines the class: an essay in style, of course Hobbs didn't plan on a product that took decades to reach the market but the scheme of blending at birth seems to have merit - modern blenders take note. One of my favourite drams of all time.

Finally I had a call -do I open the highly regarded 23yo Cadenheads port cask Lochside or the 23yo sherry cask I bought as a lot alongside the grain from Mulberry Bank Auctions? I couldn't find the port cask which saves it for another day and when I test drove the sherry it was particulalry pleasing.

Check it out though, on the night some learned colleagues were dis-chuffed, one table were thumbs down: the other thumbs up - strange, but thats taste. Cadenheads bottled this in 2004 I think and although I don't remember it specifically I recall all Lochside bottlings being good. It is INTENSE. Fully grape skins and ripe plums plus plus. Those present were divided, some not willing to board the good ship decadance and others ecstatic at the orgy of olfactory exravagance and palatial palate.

I commend Lochside as a prince amongst the populace.
jmrl
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Re: The ultimate(?) Lochside tasting Edinburgh

Postby jmrl » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:16 pm

Here is the feedback:-

5yo Macnab's blend - 59%

10yo single malt - 49%

single grain - 79% - it just pipped it by a decimal point

single blend - 79%

Sherry cask 23yo - 49%

The two 79% makes this bthe most successful tasting to date, sort of.
jmrl
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotchland

Re: The ultimate(?) Lochside tasting Edinburgh

Postby jmrl » Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:44 pm

Somewhat delayed here is the distillery profile to go with this tasting. It's not complete but the bits I want to include are fiddly and I can't find the time...also the images are beyond me to post but I'll try and add them later.

. LOCHSIDE DISTILLERY
. 1957 - 1992
. R.I.P.

Whisky can be a bit like time travel or at least a door into the past. When we take a sip what we taste has usually spent around ten years in a cask. How the spirit tastes on the day it entered the wood is normally far removed from what we experience coming out upon maturation. The time in the barrel moulds the bold spirit into a rounded and elegant creature - like the caterpillar and the butterfly via the chrysalis. The craft of the producer, nature’s blessings from the fields and forests working with water and the magic of yeast create one of life’s true pleasures - The Dram: a simple recipe but a wonderful creation. As we open the bottle our senses are treated through aromatic delicacies and tantalizing tastes. When the whisky comes from a still which is long cold or even completely vanished this experience can be particularly special if a tad frustrating in its poignancy.

So it is with Lochside. Travelling up the east coast of Scotland can be a sad trip for whisky lovers. History records hundreds of operations stretching back centuries, some producers have disappeared from memory as they would have operated covertly, away from taxation and before branding. Other lost distilleries can still be visited - Glen Esk, like Lochside, a Montrose resident is still mostly structurally intact despite last producing thirty years ago. Others, like North Port down the coast in Brechin, are practically obliterated - again like Lochside. Further north Glenury-Royal and Glenugie are also ghosts, however the spirit of these past prizes live on in bottles, pictures and stories. Some more elusive examples of past producers, like the Aberdonian Strathdee, are beyond first hand living memory and the chance to taste these distant drops of distiller’s delight must surely be gone.

Let us consider the brief but bright tale of Macnab Distiller’s Lochside. As it happens our story turns out to have quite an international element. We’ll start with the son of a farmer from Newbury, Hampshire who moved as a child to Canada in 1904 with his family who got into ranching in the Calgary area. In his twenties he flew as a Lieutenant for the Canadian navy during World War One. During prohibition in the USA alcohol was smuggled either by sea or across the land border. Fortunes were made with more or less thought for those involved in the illegal traffic. From images of swashbuckling characters to the harsh reality of ruthless gangsters the subversive activity of enjoying a glass of hooch will remain one of the twentieth century’s more fascinating chapters of social history. Our man, Joseph William Hobbs (1881 - 1963), contributed to the saga by steaming over Lake Ontario in the good ship Littlehorn to deliver his midnight cargo. One bold adventure has him sneak 130,000 cases of Teachers from Antwerp to San Francisco via the Panama canal. Another vessel put to covert exporting use was ironically an old Canadian navy armed yacht which was renamed rather aptly “Moonlight Maiden”. His ships operated under the legitimate Vancouver based company Hobbs Bros. Ltd., although their main business was presumably disguised as shipping freight of a less suspect nature However the money went as quickly and easier than it came and after the economic slump of the early 1920s our hero returns to Britain with less than £1000 to start again having lost his fortune gained through his property and ship building interests. For example he was involved in the commissioning of the 22 storey Marine building in Vancouver which was not a financial success, costing $2.3M it was sold to the Guinness family for $900K with Hobbs losing most of his investment.

OCEAN MIST

Clearly Hobbs had a practical interest in shipping but his personal involvement often spilled over to a passion for the vessels themselves. Having had several ships in his private fleet over time perhaps his pride and joy was ’Ocean Mist’ 280 gross tonnage, 125 foot long capable of just over 10 knots. This chapter of Hobbs’s story is no less engaging and colourful than most others.

During World War One there was a scheme to build 167 “Strath” steam trawlers to replace the many trawlers that were lost in action after being converted into minesweepers, some of they‘re fishing equipment being simply adapted for the Admiralty‘s needs. Still in existence Ocean Mist is the last remaining example of her type. Originally she was named after one of Lord Nelson’s crew at the Battle of Trafalgar: Samuel Green, each one of the trawlers similarly took it’s name from a crew member whom either served on HMS Victory or HMS Royal Sovereign during the battle. Completed in April 1919 by the Greenock shipbuilders George Brown the ship never saw service and was sold as a private yacht to a member of the Irish brewing family Guinness. Renamed ‘Ocean Rover’ her fishing equipment was removed and her holds converted to accommodate rally cars which were transported to the south of France and Italy for one of the family’s many sporting pursuits. Five years later under a new owner, the Duke of Leeds, she sailed with the new name ‘Aries‘, a further six years saw another new owner now with the earlier title Ocean Rover reinstated. After a further four years she found yet another new home and owner this time ona the Isle of White before passing on once again four years later in 1938 to a berth on the Firth of Clyde. Soon after on the outbreak of the Second World along with most of the British fishing fleet she was commandeered by the Admiralty. Duties for these vessels were typically mine sweeping or coastal patrol. However as she had earlier been converted in order to accommodate passengers more comfortably and as her fishing equipment had been removed she was initially deemed more suitable for use as a floating office before being variously employed as a torpedo recovery vessel and an anti-mine calibrating vessel. Come August 1945 not being as suitable for conversion back to fishing service as most of her peers were she was retired and laid up. By 1949 she had been re-fitted as a yacht but due to post war rationing of coal it took until 1954 and the pockets of a millionaire before she sailed again, this time as ‘Ocean Mist‘. At this point, for reasons of economy and cleanliness her boilers were converted from coal to oil firing. Around this period while sailing in the North Sea onboard ‘Torlundy’, a cheaply bought then converted ex-navy landing craft, Joseph Hobbs was easily passed by a trawler- his craft being flat bottomed and unable to weather well. He announced his next boat would be a steam trawler. Purchased by Hobbs in 1960 Ocean Mist was once again refitted, this time at Montrose. The Torlundy‘s next (and last?) service was on the Great Lakes, Canada, Hobbs having sold on the vessel. Once ready and after a change of colour from black to white Ocean Mist sailed round to Fort William where Hobbs had business interests. There is tale of Hobbs and John Cobb, who died on Loch Ness trying to break the water speed record, planning to use the boat whilst searching for hidden treasure in Jamaica. Between 1965 and 1982 her home was the Caledonian Canal where she was berthed in a mothballed state. For a short spell she was under the ownership of the whisky company Long John to whom Joseph Hobbs’s son sold the Ben Nevis company in 1981. Under Long John life as an alternative hospitality venue was short lived. In 1982 two businessmen saw an opportunity for a family holiday home in the attractive if fatigued yacht. However due to the expense of the restoration work it was decided to put the ship to work to pay its way. The partners were skilled in both resurrecting tired properties as well as seeing the job through to nurturing these sites as business locations. Joining forces with two other entrepreneurs under the business title The Leith Steamship Company the Ocean Mist set sail on her final (or will there be more?) voyage to Leith after six years work and £½ million. There she operated intermittently as a floating restaurant from August 1988 to the present as part of a wider scheme to redevelop the waterfront and warehousing area of Leith with conservational sympathy focusing on Leith basin. The business has traded under the name Cruz since February 2007 after a brief closure in 2000. At this point her canary yellow paint work was not always popular with locals…

Joseph William Hobbs

Foreseeing the end of prohibition several entrepreneurs prepared themselves for the inevitable demand for legal alcoholic refreshments. During prohibition production of alcohol in the States was limited to medical distillate so after the repeal of the Volstead act the initial supply of mature whisky had mostly to be sourced from traditional but foreign channels: Scotland and Ireland. A taste for ‘Scotch’ had developed in those that could afford the good stuff and American businesses like National Distillers (ND) looked for assistance from those well connected traders accustomed to business practice in ‘the old country’. After the end of prohibition in December 1931 ND had gradually acquired approximately half of the remaining pre-prohibition stocks of maturing whiskey in the US- around nine million US gallons. ND also gained control of several American brands and distilleries when it acquired American Medicinal Spirits Company of Louisville (AMS) in 1936. AMS brands included ‘Old Taylor‘, which they had owned since 1911, ‘Old Crow’ acquired in 1931, and ‘Old Grandad‘. Curiously the original Old Grandad distillery was at Hobbs, Bullit County, Kentucky! ND had for many years been the US distributors for Gilbey’s gin and in 1947 took over W. & A. Gilbey the US distributor of Gilbey Scotch. At this stage some Scotch whisky stocks were transferred to W. & A. Gilbey. Much more recently American Brands took over ND in 1987. Returning to the pre-war growth of ND: they employed Hobbs, who had experience dealing with the end customer in the US, via the Glasgow firm of merchants and blenders Train and Macintyre (T&M). T&M had been acquired a few years previously by ND and it was through them along with the help of Hobbs that several Scottish distilleries were acquired. T&M were established in 1898 when the partnership of Thomas Train & Co., established 1845, merged with John McIntyre & Co.. The new business received shares in North British grain distillery in Edinburgh, Ardgowan distillery in Greenock and in Bulloch Lade. ‘Old Angus’ was their flagship brand. In November 1919 the company became a shareholder in the newly formed West Highland Distilleries Ltd, owners of no less than six Campbeltown distilleries and had the rights to sell Glenburgie in most of the UK.

The ND subsidiary Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD) operated as a managing body for the distilleries that were being steadily collected and as the founder of ASD Hobbs was a major shareholder. With financial assistance Hobbs initially bought old but cheap distilling equipment and associated Scottish whisky interests until his first involvement in a serious acquisition: Glenury-Royal distillery in Stonehaven. Built in 1824 by Sir John Gillon of “Linlithgowshire” the distillery enjoyed rude health until a period of closure between the mid 1920s and 30s. With a London based partner, Hatim Attari, Hobbs negotiated the sale of the distillery from Lord Stonehaven and transferred ownership to the newly formed Glenury Distillery Company on 26th July 1936 for £7,500. After resuming production the following year the company sold the distillery to ASD in 1938 for an impressive £18,500. Glenury was to become the headquarters for the ASD distilling operations, an on site laboratory was also established and Hobbs himself took up residence.

Meanwhile in 1936 ASD started to bid for the nearby mothballed Fettercairn distillery which had been built in 1824. It would take two years before this deal was signed.

Another acquisition by Hobbs this time in partnership with Alexander W. Tolmie, and again Hatim Attari, came in 1937: Bruichladdich on Islay. The partners had bought the distillery which was built in 1881 from long time owners the Harvey family for £23,000 before quickly passing it on to ASD.

In this same year another west coast distillery, Glenlochy at Fort William founded in 1898, was purchased by T&M from the Lancashire car hirer T. L. Rankin.

By 1938 a further east coast distillery was purchased: North Esk (originally named Highland Esk), a former flax spinning mill converted to distilling in 1897. Immediately on takeover the production was converted from malt to grain and the name changed to Montrose. Since 1919 only the malting floors had been in operation. Distilling stopped again when DCL took over in 1954 although malting continued. It was not until 1959 that grain distilling recommenced. Subsequently, in November 1965 with ownership transferred to DCL subsidiary Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD) production was converted back to malt and the name changed to Hillside, the size of the grain operation was considered not large enough to be economic. Another name change, now ‘Glenesk’, came in 1980, the distillery permanently shutting in December of 1985 after a final minor name change to ‘Glen Esk‘ came on 31st May 1985 with the licence to distil being cancelled in 1992. Parts of the distillery are still visible and it has been the property of Paul’s Maltings since 1996 who run a substantial maltings on site.

Returning to 1938 the Forres distillery Benromach joined the group in July. The Morayshire still was built in 1898 but had been silent since 1931.

In the same year T&M including all distilleries (as well as their Strathdee bonding facility) were joined together under the direct ownership of ASD. Strathdee in Great Western Road, Aberdeen was built in 1821 and although spirit production was no longer a feature had been the property of T&M since 1924/25.

Around this pre-war period Hobbs shrewdly purchased a Leicester based manufacturer of fire extinguishers as well as a Norwegian patent for sub-sea welding equipment. Continuing his now independent career he bought Ben Nevis Distilleries in 1941 for £20,000 from the MacDonald family. The sale included Lochaber maltings and warehousing. and on the same day of purchasing the complex Hobbs sold just the Nevis bond for the same amount he paid for the whole package (including Ben Nevis distillery which he retained) to Train & MacIntyre. T&M were keen to augment Glenlochy’s limited malting capacity and storage facilities. Hobbs was able to fund the purchase of Ben Nevis as he had sold his interest in ASD to ND in 1940 for £38,000 making it a fully owned subsidiary of T&M. Another local investment of Hobbs’s came in 1945 with the purchase of a substantial (6000 acres 58 mile perimeter) estate. Come 1952 Hobbs’s influence within the industry was signified by his appointment as the chairman of a 34 strong member alternative to The Scotch whisky Association - the dominant trade representative body. Taking his lead from his father and grandfather Hobbs turned his hand to farming and stock dealing. One of the buildings involved can still be seen on the Fort William to Spean Bridge road clearly marked in large white letters ‘The Great Glen Cattle Ranch’. Although the majority of the estate was sold in 1961 300 acres were retained along with a grand house which was converted into a luxury hotel by his son Joe Junior and his wife Grete in 1969. Inverlochy Castle Hotel is now in different hands but is recognised as of the highest standard - being voted best hotel in Europe in 2006 by an influential travel magazine. If considering a stay don’t confuse the hotel with the actual castle which is a ruin. A ‘Grand Reserve’ single blend from Ben Nevis was the resident whisky at the hotel, there was also a 21yo expression of the unusual single blend scheme, again the sole product of Ben Nevis.

To draw a line under the role played by National Distillers in our story we see after ASD had returned a disappointing performance in the years following World War Two ND withdrew from Scotland selling ASD, including T&N, to Distiller’s Company Limited (DCL) in 1953 along with all but two of their six stills. Of the two sold separately Bruichladdich distillery and stock were purchased by Ross & Coulter in 1951/52 for £205,000, a sum which appears to be close to the value of whisky stocks alone. Fettercairn was sold to an Aberdonian businessman.


The West Lothian Connection

When Hobbs purchased the rights to the brand name “Sandy Macnab’s” (probably soon after WWII) he intended to resurrect the distillery associated with the brand. Situated in Bathgate, West Lothian, Glen Mavis distillery’s start date appears to be at least 1783 as there is a record of the distillery being ‘to let’ at this point. By 1795 the business was run by one David Simpson whose son Sir James Young Simpson (b. 7.6.1811) was to discover the anaesthetic qualities of chloroform. David had six children, he married the distillery’s neighbouring farmer’s daughter, Mary Jervay in 1792. He was himself the junior of his siblings and as a distiller prospered with his brother Thomas at Glenmavis, (‘mavis‘ is a local word for a song thrush). Thomas moved on to nearby Kirkliston distillery. A brief partnership, Wark & Simpson, took the distillery over from 1825-26 while James & William Reid took control 1829-33. By 1836 expansion of production at the distillery required additional maltings to be constructed in Bathgate’s Cochrane street, the local landowner not wishing to permit any expansion at the original site, these premises are now demolished. This progress would have been under John MacNab whose management is often recorded as starting in 1831 while also frequently quoted as 1834 but would have been during the ownership of the distillery by one Thomas Balfour. However upon the death of Mr Balfour in 1844 the distillery was recorded as owned by Macnab Brothers & Co. An interesting development was the acquisition of a continuous still in 1855. It is known malted barley was employed while using this still and that a surprisingly modest fraction of potential output was realised. The equipment was thought to produce 2000 gallons of spirit in a 22 hour day yet records from 1880 show only 80,000 gallons being made in the whole year. Brian Townsend, the author of ‘Scotch Missed’ has a believable theory that the equipment may well have been offloaded cheaply by possibly either the Haig or Stein dynasties of distillers or a similar grain producer. Not long after the perfection of earlier cruder versions of the efficient continuous still in the 1830s there was an over enthusiastic rush to produce the new grain whisky. Consequently the market was flooded with cheap stock and many companies were bankrupted. Quite possibly one such company may have sought to find funds by selling off the redundant machinery.

Thanks to Alfred Barnard, the great Victorian brewery and distillery cataloguer, we have a clear picture of the distillery in 1887: to take advantage of gravity the buildings were on a slope with power supplied via a waterwheel while process water came from two reservoirs. Barnard used the word ‘rustic’ to describe the operation, noting unlike nearly all distilleries of the day worts were cooled by fan rather than the ubiquitous Morton’s refrigerator. 16 staff were employed and enough draff produced to feed the distillery’s 65 cattle. Room for 2000 casks was found between the two warehousing sites. Production ended in 1900 with 1910, coincidentally the year of John MacNab’s grandson’s (also John like his father) death, filed as the date of closure, the intervening 10 years presumably spent maintaining and selling stock. For the next forty years the distillery buildings stood unused. The brand associated with the company was ‘MacNab’s Celebrated Glenmavis Dew‘, a local bar still has a mirror branded with the mark. Today Inverhouse retain the rights to the brand having used Glen Mavis as a standard blend. The final years of the buildings saw them being used for munitions storage during the second world war, as the home to Glenmavis Amateur Boxing Club (one of its members, Willie ’Buff’ Maclean operated a pub called ‘The Glenmavis Bar’ when he emigrated to Vancouver) then latterly as a car showroom and garage before being demolished to make way for a handsome residential development. All that is now left is Glen Mavis house - the manager’s home. It should be noted that another family, McNab, is unrelated to John MacNab. The McNab brothers were active in grain distillery associations and were owners at Tambowie, Lasswade, Cowie and Glenochil distilleries.

Despite Hobbs’s plans for production in Bathgate no more spirit was to be made at Glenmavis, the local council taking issue with plans for effluent discharge directly into the river forth not fitting into anti-pollution measures and even a scheme to use dormant mine shafts as a deposit for discharge being thought inappropriate. It is at this point, the mid 1950s, Hobbs took any useful plant from Bathgate to Montrose. It appears initially the plan was to relocate to Arbroath where a bond had been used by Macnabs as a bottling facility however when Deuchars Lochside brewery in Montrose came on the market a better solution was found.

Lochside

So to the focus of our interest - Lochside distillery, Montrose. Taking it’s name from a filled in ‘Mary’s Loch’ adjacent to it’s situation the distillery sat to the north of the town on the main road. Having long been the site of a brewery any initial concern of water quality for whisky production could pretty much be disregarded, there being a reliable hard water source from an artesian well. Conversions from breweries to distilleries are not unknown in Scotland, for example Glen Moray, Glenmorangie and Tullibardine all started life this way. Brewing had taken place at the site since 1781 although the original owner’s name has been lost over the passage of time.

A title deed for the brewery from March 1830 appears to be the first written occasion of the use of the named location ’Lochside’ with ’Lochside of Newmanswalls’ given as the place of brewing on the deed. Come 1842 one William Ross, brewer at Lochside of Newmanswalls with several partners is recorded as purchasing the land in question while Messrs Lyall, Aberdeen & Co. erected a brewhouse and malt mill. It appears that a granary employed by the distillery was originally a malting floor used by the brewery until malting was carried out on a different site to allow expansion and an increase in production. By 1871 a new contract listed several partners with William Ross the only name common to the previous arrangement. Another re-arrangement of 1874 preceded the 1875 land contract held by William Ross & Co.. Eventually Ross was bought out by James Deuchar of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and wells were bored, starting in 1888, to improve water supplies. The final, and most productive, well was drilled in 1948 and remained in use until the distillery closed in 1992. The 300 feet deep well provided 3000 gallons of water and hour. At the same time as drilling started a rebuild by the famous distillery architect Charles Doig of Elgin was underway and completed by 1889. Doig decided to employ a gravity fed system which resulted in the appearance of a rather unique German Brauhaus tower which added a curious continental sight to the small east coast town. By filling a tank at the top of the tower hardly any pumps were required to transfer liquid to the latter stages of production as they simply flowed from one step to the next lower down the building. It has been estimated that annual beer production would have been over 0.6M litres. Twice a week beer, including the famous Newcastle Brown Ale, was shipped from Montrose to Tyneside, latterly by the company’s own two ships, making Lochside the only other place the famous ale was brewed.

Come 1956 James Deuchar was bought by Newcastle Breweries Ltd. who soon closed the brewery. The new owners had found Lochside surplus to requirements, there being an excess of capacity within the company, production was transferred to their Edinburgh Duddingston facility. Enter Mr Hobbs, wishing to augment stocks, broaden his company’s repertoire of flavours and add to his portfolio of investments he purchased the site in 1957. Previously he had bought the nearby Arbroath Bond with the intention of conversion to a distillery but like Bathgate the proposed use of the local water course for effluent disposal was ruled unsuitable. The plan at Montrose was to make grain whisky in the 67 feet high coffey still which had either been moved from Glen Mavis or possibly using a newly commissioned still that was even potentially originally to be installed in Bathgate before permission to distil there was refused. At this time (1958) Hobbs was joined by Charles Sharpe, originally working on the refitting of the Ocean Mist then employed as the distillery maintenance engineer Mr Sharpe was to remain at Lochside until, in his role as manager (since 1977), he was the person to last lock the distillery door on its eventual closure in 1996. Trading under the name Macnab Distilleries Ltd. Hobbs retained the brand name he acquired when interested in Glenmavis. After plans for enhanced grain capacity in the late 50s/ early 1960s were realised with the commissioning of new large and efficient plants like Invergordon and Girvan Hobbs realised that the market for grain was getting crowded and decided in 1961 to add four medium sized and ‘onion’ shaped pot stills for malt production, these may have been converted from the original brewery’s ‘coppers‘. Like at his other facility, Ben Nevis where grain and malt were also produced, the practice of ’blending at birth’ was followed. Here the new spirit from both pot and column stills were mixed and filled into cask in the belief that the final unique ‘single blend’ would have the advantage of having the ultimate ‘marriage’ period to harmonise their characters. This practice continued until Hobbs’s passing in 1964. Thanks to the 1987 visit of Philip Morrice while treading in the footsteps of Alfred Barnard to research a centenary edition of the latter’s landmark publication ‘Distilleries of The United Kingdom and Ireland’ we have a clear idea of the technical layout of Lochside. Amongst other recorded quantities and dimensions we find there were ample storage for 150 tonnes of barley on site. There were eighteen six tonne mashes a week in an open cast iron mash tun. Instead of the standard underback there was an intermediate worts receiver employing a filter bed. Hobbs’s distilleries were known for their idiosyncrasies so perhaps we should be surprised there were not more unorthodox fittings. There followed, at least on Philips’s visit, a forty hour fermentation period in nine 35,000 litre stainless steel washbacks. There were two wash stills heated internally by pans and two spirit stills heated by kettle and coils. The whole show was powered by an heavy oil boiler. The bonded warehouses were able to store 60.000 casks. With the inclusion of the administration, blending and bottling operations at the distillery there was a total of 35 staff. Previous to bottling on site the local bottler Bow Butt’s Bonding Co. held the commission. This was the period when the phrase ‘Liqueur Whisky’ appeared on labels -the practise discontinuing once bottling was done in-house. A ’Macray’ 5yo blend erroneously accorded to Macnab Distilleries was actually a product from Bow Butt’s perhaps after they were taken over in 1973 by George Morton Limited. Peak annual production capacity for the malt side of Lochside was 2.5 MLPA (Million Litres Pure Alcohol). Rather unusually, but well in step with the philosophy of doing as much as possible independently, Macnab’s blend was bottled on site from 1975 then Lochside single malt 10yo from 1987. Presumably process water was used as the bottling dilutant helping to keep a certain complimentary aspect to the finished product. It is believed the malt was available at 8, 10 (until 1991) and 12 years old while the blend was bottled as a standard, 5yo and 8yo. A relatively generous 35% malt content was featured in the blend while between 15 and 20 malts were combined in the mix.

On Hobbs’s passing in 1964 his son Joe attempted to sell the distillery but it was nearly ten years before a buyer could be found with production suspended in 1971. Eventually in the first continental involvement of Scotch whisky interests the Spanish company Distillerias Y Crianzas (DYC or “Deek”) took over in 1972/73. At this point the pot stills came back to life after a period of mothballing although grain production permanently ceased. There was a spell of around a decade where production was at maximum output. By the mid 80s this enthusiasm was curtailed with only around 60% of capacity being realised. Eventually the end came in May 1992 when after a series of takeovers the ultimate owner (Allied) deemed the facility excess to requirement at a time when consumption was suppressed and stocks were sufficient for the foreseeable future. Having a relatively modest production capability and not having had any significant investment in modern equipment, a short pedigree (only 35 years), not being within the popular Speyside region and being on a prime development site the distillery was not attractive as an ongoing proposition whilst the land it stood on was of interest to property developers. Mature stocks were depleted by 1996 followed by dismantling in 1997. The bonding facilities were demolished in 1999 and after a fire in late January 2005 the remaining buildings were cleared not enjoying any listing status despite efforts of concerned parties.

The Spanish Link

DYC are based at the foot of a mountain range in Segovia, Spain operating the Molino del Arco (‘mill by the arc‘) distillery and have been marketing their brand since 1963. It was commissioned in February 1959 to offer a locally produced whisky more favourably priced than the heavily taxed imported alternatives. The distillery is self sufficient having its own Saladin box maltings, both malt and grain is produced (there were originally six pot stills, which were made in Madrid, while another was subsequently added) and there is warehousing for 200,000 casks. At one point their blend was in the top 25 selling whiskies worldwide being popular both on the home market and in Latin America. Corn and sometimes rye were used in production of their grain and output is in the region of twenty million litres of pure alcohol a year. Recently DYC was bought by Spanish sherry makers Pedro Domecq. From an historical UK perspective Allied Breweries acquired Teachers in 1976 then Ballantines owners Hiram-Walker in 1987, the resulting spirits division was named Allied Distillers. Three years later Whitbred’s whisky interests were also acquired. When Pedro Domecq was bought by Allied Distillers in 1993 (or was it Allied-Lyons in 1994?) the resulting company was called Allied-Domecq and was the world’s third largest drinks company. The firm were broken up between Beam Global and Pernod Ricard in 2005. DYC lies within Beam now and is a stable mate of Laphroaig and Ardmore. Scotch whisky is still shipped to Spain for mixing and bottling as in the days of Lochside when bulk tankers would transport from Montrose to Spain for adding to the local product.

We are sitting tonight in the fire glow,
Just you and I alone,
And the flickering light falls softly
On a beauty that’s all your own,
It gleams where your round smooth shoulder
From a graceful neck sweeps down;
And I would not exchange your beauty
For the best-dressed belle in town.

I have drawn the curtains closer,
And from my easy chair
I stretch my hand towards you,
Just to feel that you are there
And your breath is laden with perfume,
As my thoughts around you twine,
And I feel my pulses beating as your spirit is mingled with mine.

And the woes of the world have vanished
When I’ve pressed my lips to yours:
And to feel your life-blood flowing
To me is the best of cures,
You have given me inspiration
For many a soulful rhyme-
You’re the finest old Scotch whisky
I’ve had for a long, long time.
jmrl
Gold Member
 
Posts: 819
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2007 9:38 pm
Location: Edinburgh, Scotchland

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