Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor: A rare glimpse at two lost distilleries

Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor: A rare glimpse at two lost distilleries

In his latest column, Whisky Auctioneer’s Joe Wilson provides a fascinating insight into two of Inverness' lost distilleries: Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor.

Auction News with Joe Wilson | 05 Apr 2024 | By Joe Wilson

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It is a particularly poignant moment for the Scotch whisky industry just now, as two of its most missed distilleries have reopened to the public since being mothballed 30 and 40 years ago. Those distilleries, respectively, are Rosebank (which recommenced production last year) and the newly revived Port Ellen on Islay. Both had been casualties of oversupply issues when shut down, however their legacies were subsequently bolstered by a string of both independent and official releases of the remaining stocks. Typically highly-regarded, these bottles drove the demand for their eventual resurrections.

 

Not all whisky fans will be so lucky, however, as many of the distilleries scuppered in the whisky loch of the 1980s are now lost forever, having been either repurposed or demolished. Our March sale at Whisky Auctioneer provided a fascinating insight into two of these: Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. Once comprising two-thirds of the Inverness distilling industry alongside Millburn, both have long since been demolished to make space for supermarkets. While most closed distilleries were popularised in their posthumous years by independent bottlers like Signatory Vintage and Douglas Laing, the cult status of these two distilleries is supported by official releases from their active years, allowing enthusiasts a comparatively rare glimpse at these single malts through the lens of the producers themselves.

 

The proprietor of both sites for the majority of the 20th century were Mackinlay & Birnie, a partnership between one of its former managers, John Birnie, and the Leith-based blender, Charles Mackinlay & Co. The latter, thankfully, was an early exponent of the single malt category and opted to make the unblended production of both distilleries available to consumers. Beginning in the 1950s, they bottled 6-, 8- and 10-year-old expressions, and examples of the younger and older of the trio can be found in our March sale alongside an early 1970s version of the 10-year-old. The bottle shape will be recognisable to those familiar with the classic design once used for Mackinlay’s blends and Isle of Jura whiskies.

 

The Glen Albyn brand first appeared in the 1960s via John E. McPherson & Sons, a Mackinlay’s subsidiary. Its range was limited to a sole 10-year-old which was popular with the emerging single malt connoisseurs of the Italian market at the time. So much so, a very rare cask strength version was once selected by the legendary bar owner, Edoardo Giaccone, whose other exclusive picks over the years included highly-rated Clynelish, Dalmore, and Old Fitzgerald bourbons. This Glen Albyn, as well as a selection of the regular 10-year-olds, are also available to explore in our March auction.

 

Both brands disappeared when acquired by Distillers Company in 1972, and the distilleries shut down eleven years later. Despite the affection that many either maintained or developed for them subsequently, only three more official bottlings were ever released: two Glen Mhor and one Glen Albyn, all within the Rare Malts Selection from United Distillers. With independent stocks now evidently dwindling too, it remains one of the great privileges we have at Whisky Auctioneer to be able to transport people back into the past and share whiskies that, unlike others have recently proven, genuinely will never be produced again.

 

This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and was created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.

About Whisky Auctioneer

Whisky Auctioneer is one of the global market leaders and trusted authorities on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction. Founded in 2013 and located in Perth, Whisky Auctioneer utilises its expertise and knowledge combined with its auction platform, to increase interest and passion in the whisky and spirits community.

 

Whisky Auctioneer endeavours to make the market more accessible for buyers and sellers of any background and geography. Its monthly global auctions feature some of the most comprehensive selections of old, rare and collectible whiskies and spirits available online.

 

Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-pound bottle and outperformed the nearest traditional auction house by 200 per cent in value from spirits sales in 2020, showcasing the move that whisky collectors, investors and drinkers have already made online and firmly establishing their leading position within the modern secondary whisky market.

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