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Issue 4 - Born again- and again and again (Benromach)

Whisky Magazine Issue 4
June 1999

 

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Born again- and again and again (Benromach)

Benromach Distillery reopened last year, for the sixth time in its hundred-year history. Jim Murray hopes that this time it's for good

It will be a stock trivia question for whisky buffs for years to come: which distillery celebrated its centenary by being reborn?

Answer: the tiny northern Speyside distillery of Benromach, located in the ancient town of Forres. And the re-opening of Benromach brought the most famous independent Scotch bottlers of them all, Gordon & MacPhail, into that most exclusive of trades: whisky distilling. The fact that the Urquhart family, which owns Gordon & MacPhail, chose to buy a Speyside distillery was hardly a surprise, as Gordon & MacPhail is as much a part of Speyside as Glenfiddich, Strathisla or even the Spey itself.

Gordon & MacPhail began when two Highland gentlemen, James Gordon and John MacPhail, set up shop in South Street, Elgin, in 1895. The businesss still operates from the same building.

They began immediately to deal in malt whisky, but the grocery side of the fledgling empire was sturdy enough to see it through the Pattison crash of 1898-9. This happened at a time of over-production in the industry, when the fraudulent dealings of the most active Scotch company brought about a wave of closures of distilleries throughout Scotland and the ruin of some individuals who had invested too heavily.

While Gordon & MacPhail continued to thrive, the brand-new Benromach distillery was less fortunate. It was unlucky enough to have been built in 1898 at the very height of the late-Victorian whisky boom, and had not even taken on the aroma of peat when Pattison's foundered. ...

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