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Issue 23 - Covert operations

Whisky Magazine Issue 23
June 2002


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Covert operations

Dave Broom decides it's high time for Inver House Distillers to spill the beans

When you think of whisky distilling, Airdrie doesn't spring to mind.

Situated in the industrial belt that runs between between Glasgow and Edinburgh it's a tough, working class town which has struggled ever since Scotland's industrial base was decimated. Ships are no longer built on the Clyde, the mines have closed, the steelworks been turned into a theme park. This isn't the Scotland promoted by VisitScotland, a romantic country of castles and glens, heather and kilts. This is a Scotland of housing schemes, Irn-Bru, struggling football teams, unemployment and community. The one thing that links these two sides of modern Caledonia is the only manufacturing industry left in the country: whisky. Maybe Airdrie isn't that strange a location after all. There was a distillery here once. In fact, there were two on the one site: one making grain, the other malt, but who remembers Moffat grain, or Glen Flagler or Killyloch malts these days? Just another victim of the recession in the '80s when central Scotland had its working heart ripped out.

The two plants were built in 1964 by Inver House Distillers, which was then owned by the American firm Publicker, a Philadelphia-based company eager to grab a slice of the then-booming Scotch market. At one point it was claimed to be Scotland's largest on-site distilling, bottling and warehousing plant. By the '80s however, the company was struggling, the distilleries were demolished and the Americans were only too happy to cut their losses a...

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