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Issue 69 - A table of two names (Brora)

Whisky Magazine Issue 69
January 2008

 

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A table of two names (Brora)

Gavin D Smith delves into Brora's past.

Unlike many of the distilleries featured so far in this series, Brora remains externally intact, and looks as though with a little ‘TLC' it could recommence distilling without too much trouble.Once inside,however it becomes obvious that appearances can be deceptive.

Most of the distilling plant has been stripped out and either reused or scrapped, though the pair of tarnished stills remains in situ.

Brora distillery, known as Clynelish until the mid 1960s, stands on the outskirts of the east Sutherlandshire port and holiday resort of Brora, some 50 miles north-east of Inverness, and a similar distance south of Wick. It was founded in 1819 by the Marquis of Stafford, later the 1st Duke of Sutherland,whose name has become synonymous with the shame of the Highland Clearances.

One of the principal reasons for the establishment of Clynelish distillery was to provide an outlet for barley grown by the estate's tenants. Not only was there a plentiful supply of barley to make malt, but there was also an abundance of peat in the area,and even a modest local coal seam, which had been operating from the 16th century.

Once in production,Clynelish had several licensees, including James Harper, John Matheson, Andrew Ross and George Lawson & Sons, with the Glasgow blenders James Ainslie & Co purchasing the distillery in 1896 in partnership with John Risk, who had formerly owned Bankier distillery in Stirlingshire.Clynelish was subsequently rebuilt, but when Ainslie & Co went bankrupt in...

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