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Issue 93 - Western Losses

Whisky Magazine Issue 93
January 2011

 

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Western Losses

Campbeltown once boasted scores of distilleries. Now most are gone. Gavin D. Smith tells their story

In issue 83 we focused on the Campbeltown distillery of Hazelburn, ultimately the largest plant operating in what whisky chronicler Alfred Barnard termed ‘whisky city' when he visited the fishing port on the Kintyre peninsula in 1885. But Barnard toured no fewer than 21 Campbeltown distilleries during his two week stay at the White Hart Hotel. Output at the time was 1,938,000 gallons per year, with more than 250 men directly employed in the distilling industry.

Overall, distilling has taken place in Campbeltown on some 35 sites, and the first written reference to whisky in relation to the area occurs in 1591. Long before the 1823 Excise Act stimulated legal distilling, the remote land of the Kintyre peninsula enjoyed a reputation for illicit distillation.

The location is blessed with abundant pure water, plenty of peat, and relatively easy access to supplies of that barley. There was even a local source of coal in the shape of Drumlemble mine, while the thirsty, expanding industrial towns of the west of Scotland were just a short sea journey away.

Although it was the 1823 Act that stimulated legal distillery construction, the first significant distillery was built in 1817 by John MacTaggart and John Beith. It was called Campbeltown distillery and stood at the head of Longrow.

Following the passing of the Excise Act, Campbeltown became a veritable boom town in terms of distillery construction with Caledonian, Kinloch, Dalaruan, Longrow, Lochead, Meadowburn, Burnside, Kin...

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