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Issue 80 - Keeper's of the flame

Whisky Magazine Issue 80
June 2009


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Keeper's of the flame

Gavin D Smith continues his look at great distillery fires.

In the last issue we saw how Banff distillery seemed to be particularly unlucky when it came to fires and explosions, but it was not alone. Another distillery that seems to have suffered more than its fair share of such calamities is Dalmore, located at Alness, on the Cromarty Firth in Easter Ross.

On July 1st 1911 a fire destroyed two acres of bonded warehouses and 63,874 gallons of whisky was lost, much of it flowing in flames into the Cromarty Firth, which became a sea of fire. Six years later, as the First World War raged, the United States Navy took over Dalmore and proceeded to use it for the manufacture of deep-sea mines By the time they returned the site to its owners, the Mackenzie family, in 1920, it had suffered an explosion and fire, and negotiations regarding compensation payments dragged on for several years.

The fates had not yet finished with Dalmore, however, and in April 1964 the smaller of the distillery's two still houses was struck by fire.

The late Drew Sinclair worked at Dalmore for 40 years, finally serving as manager, and shortly before his death in 2006 he recalled that “What happened was that the chap working in the wee stillhouse just left the vent open at the top of the still, by mistake. It was coal fires then for the stills, and he left his charging valve open and the vent valve open and the spirit just poured out, down onto the fire and it set alight.” Today's Dalmore manager is Andrew Scott, who says “I think that historically, whisky...

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