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Issue 84 - Granite city blues

Whisky Magazine Issue 84
November 1999


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Granite city blues

Gavin D Smith looks at how Aberdeen went from several distilleries to none.

Scotland's ‘third city' of Aberdeen has a long and distinguished Scotch whisky heritage,having been the historical home of a number of well-known blending companies as well as several distilleries.

Blenders based in the city included James Catto & Co Ltd, Gordon Graham & Co Ltd,who established the Black Bottle blend, now in the hands of Burn Stewart Distillers, and most famously of all, Chivas Brothers. The Pernod Ricard-owned Scotch whisky subsidiary traces its origins back to an Aberdeen grocery store in 1801.

As far as distilleries are concerned, a considerable number sprang up in the wake of the Excise Act of 1823,which made legal distilling more financially rewarding, but many of these did not last for long, and the Aberdeen Directory of 1855 lists just five whisky-making operations. They were John Begg, 17 Weigh-house Square, Henry Ogg and Co, Strathdee, Cooperston, Reid, Smith and Co. Union Glen, Holburn Brown, Farquhar and Co, Glenburn, Rubislaw, and William Black and Co of Devanha.

By the time Alfred Barnard visited Aberdeen during the mid- 1880s, describing it as “ of the prettiest cities in the Kingdom,” there were three distilleries in action, namely the above mentioned Strathdee and Devanha, along with Bon Accord.

Bon Accord came into existence in 1856, and was based in substantially renovated and upgraded premises on Hardgate, formerly occupied by the Union Glen distillery, which was sequestrated in 1853, and an adjacent 18th century brewery, whi...

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