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Issue 87 - O Caledonia

Whisky Magazine Issue 87
April 2010


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O Caledonia

Gavin D. Smith looks at one of Edinburgh's former distilleries.

Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh has variously been home to some 10 distilleries since the late 18th century, and Auld Reekie's whiskymaking tradition continues today through the North British grain distillery in Weatfield Road.

Until 1988, however, Edinburgh boasted another, larger, older, grain distillery in the shape of the Caledonian Distillery.

‘The Cally' as it was known, was founded in 1855 by Graham Menzies & Co, who already owned Sunbury distillery, beside Edinburgh's Water of Leith.

Around this time, there was a veritable explosion in the production of grain whisky in Scotland, with output rising from some 4.2 million gallons in 1851 to 7.5 million gallons just six years later. Menzies & Co was keen to be part of this boom and chose to build a major new distillery to the west of the city centre. It was initially known as the Edinburgh Distillery, but was soon renamed the Caledonian, and was equipped with a notably large Coffey still to produce grain whisky.

Its chosen location owed much to the availability of water supplies from the nearby Union Canal, but another form of transport was also in the minds of Menzies and his colleagues, namely the railway.

The Caledonian was almost certainly the first distillery in Scotland to be built in a location designed to take advantage of the fast-developing rail network, and branch lines from both the neighbouring Caledonian Railway and the North British Railway lines ran into the new distillery.

When six other majo...

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