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Issue 67 - A giant culled

Whisky Magazine Issue 67
November 2007

 

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A giant culled

Gavin D Smithlooks at the recent loss of Dumbarton,a once vast grain distillery

Just as Scotland's complement of malt distilleries has shrunk during the past two decades, so has its range of grain facilities.

The historic plants of Carsebridge and Cambus in central Scotland closed in 1983 and 1993 respectively, while the huge Caledonian grain distillery in Edinburgh fell silent in 1988.

However, the closure of Dumbarton grain distillery in 2002 represents the most recent loss to the overall Scottish distilling scene.

Dumbarton distillery was one of a number of large-scale, whiskyrelated businesses situated in the ancient town of the same name, 15 miles north-west of Glasgow. It was located beside the River Leven, with dramatic views across the Clyde Estuary.

The distillery owed its existence to the popularity of the Ballantine's brand of blended Scotch whisky in North America during the interwar years, and to what was considered an unacceptable attitude on the part of the Distillers Company Ltd.

In 1935,when Prohibition ended in the United States the Canadianbased Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts organisation acquired the venerable Scottish company of George Ballantine & Son.The following year, Hiram Walker purchased Glenburgie and Miltonduff malt distilleries on Speyside, as the malt whisky from both distilleries was at the core of the Ballantine's blend.

But this was all small beer compared to what was to come.

The story goes that Hiram Walker's Harry Hatch only decided to build his own grain distillery after Sir Henry Ross, chairman of the Distil...

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