Initially, we used some information from Misako Udo's book, The Scotch Whisky Distilleries, and Ulf Buxrud's, Rare Malts Facts, Figures and Taste, neither had too much to offer with Ulf's containing a couple of nuggets; we've since built upon these thin foundations to create the definitive Glen Mhor resource. There is a dedicated Timeline page and this will cover some of the variable dates.
Glen Mhor (pronounced Glen Vawr, or Glen Vhore) means Great Glen, which cuts across Scotland from the northeast to the southwest.
Address: Telford Street, Muirtown, Inverness, Inverness-shire, IV3 5LD.
Location: Located next door to Glen Albyn distillery on a site of 4 acres, this location granted immediate access to the Caledonian Canal and the River Ness. Beyond the Muirtown Basin, to the north, was the Moray Firth that leads into the North Sea.
The Muirtown Basin was also served by a railway line with a siding at Glen Albyn distillery, across the road from Glen Mhor. And that road was the forerunner to the A9 of today. The Great North Road ran through Muirtown and further north. Today it is known as the A862.
Overall, Glen Mhor had excellent access to a variety of transportation methods and through our research and documentation, made use of these.
The original plans confirm the frontage being 150 feet in size, with the back of the distillery being the canal embankment side. The Telford Street side of the site is 130 feet in length.
Water source: River Ness used for cooling and processing is the official line, however, the direct source was the Caledonian Canal, or more specifically, an inlet pipe just loch-wards of Muirtown Top Lock.
Dressing Plant: a new version was built by George Porteous & Sons and installed in 1949, able to receive grain by road, rail or canal. A series of Conveyors (also by George Porteous & Sons) was also introduced, allowing swift transportation to the grain stores.
Grain Store: 125 feet long by 25 feet wide. In 1949, the capacity of the store was more than doubled without any extra building - this suggests that one of the unused malting floors was adapted for grain storage.
Malt Barn: two storeys in height, 130 feet in length and 25 feet wide.
Maltings: Saladin Box Maltings were introduced in October 1949, on the original malting floor building, until 1980. These initial screw-type rather than the later stir design. The Box was 60-foot long, with concrete walls, 8-feet apart and 6-feet high. For more details please see our Quotes Section for the former worker, Rodney Burtt's, memories of the Saladin. The first distillery to install hydro-electric power to operate the maltings.
Kiln: drying by peat, coke and coal. Capacity of the Kiln was increased threefold in 1949. Noted in 1975 to be 48 hours in duration.
Barley: locally grown until 1980, Golden Promise and Triumph. Foreign barley was also used as shown in our document section with records from 1894-1922. Also in that section is confirmation in 1916 that various barley sources across the Black Isle were being utilised.
Peat Source: local peat, Aberdeenshire and Orkney.¹
Coal Source: Bowhill mine in Fife was shipping coal to the distillery in 1916 and 1917.
Steeps: 2 new conical steeps were installed in 1949.
Mill: Porteus Mill.
Mash tun: the original mash tun we know in 1898 was capable of handling 250 bushels, or approximately 1.61 tonnes. This was replaced in 1925 with a new tun capable of offering 10 metric tonnes capacity. Made from Scottish larch.
The 1898 mash tun was fed by a Steel's masher, and pre-mash, the water was heated in a copper tank capable of holding 3000 gallons - a similar set-up used by Bowmore to this day.
Washbacks: wooden, made from Scottish larch. Capacity, 21,000 litres.
In 1894 this room is noted to be 'over 40 feet in length with a concreted floor, and contained four large fermenting vessels, each with a capacity of 6500 gallons. Space has here been reserved, for an extension to hold other four tuns.' In 1975, there are noted to be 7 in total, holding 55,000 gallons.
Yeast strain: during the SMD era, a distillers yeast. In 1895, the distillery was using yeast obtained from the Fountainbridge Brewery in Edinburgh and potentially this may have continued throughout the Mackinlay & Burnie ownership.
By 1917, the distillery was being supplied yeast by 3 major brewers of note; McEwan's of Lothian Road (likely to be a continuation of the Fountainbridge brewery, above), Hamlyns of Salford and Younger & Co. of Cannongate, Edinburgh.
Still room: noted to be 50 foot in length and offering perfect ventilation in 1894.
Wash still: one. Originally built by Glasgow firm, Fleming, Bennet & McLaren. A capacity of 8,128 litres, onion-shaped. The 2nd wash still introduced in 1925 is unknown in dimension or was until our research found an unpublished image from 1946 (see Photographs), which confirms a size of 12,274 litres.
Spirit still: one. Originally built by Glasgow firm, Fleming, Bennet & McLaren. A capacity of 6,919 litres also onion-shaped.
Cooling: traditional submerged worms.
Indirect heating: by steam coils.
Spirit vat: noted in 1894 to be 2000 gallons in the filling store and this appears in a 1950s photograph showing it still in use.
Annual production: noted in 1894 to be 130,000 gallons per annum, 320,000 gallons post-war. Noted to be 1,300,000 during SMD era and in 1975, 9000 gallons per week.
Cask management: ex-bourbon casks mainly, average 10 year maturation period. The Shackleton whisky found at the South Pole, circa 1907, was scientifically examined and confirmed to be Glen Mhor and featured American white oak sherry casks. An invoice from 1917 in our Document Section highlights that the distillery was using treated butts via Walker and Sons in Kilmarnock.
Warehousing: shared with Glen Albyn, site capacity of 60,000 casks. Prior to demolition, 40,000 casks were present before being transferred to nearby distilleries.
The original warehouse from 1894 formed the south wall of the distillery and was 315 feet in length, capable of holding 150,000 gallons of whisky. Warehousing was subsequently added (starting in 1897), these new warehouses would join onto the original warehouse and form the famous backdrop to the football ground situated directly behind.
Blends: Mackinlay's, Shackleton. Also supplied to Dewars, White Horse, VAT 69 and Black & White. In 1917, Glen Mhor was supplying; A. Baillie & Co., Black & Ferguson, Dawson's of Glasgow (Peter Dawson's Special Scotch Whisky), Johnnie Walker, MacDonald & Muir (Bailie Nicol Jarvie, Highland Queen). In 1956, Glen Mhor was supplying Archibald, Campbell, Hope and King of Elgin, for their Campbell's blend.
In the 1970s we also have proof that Chivas also accepted at least 1 parcel of casks for its Chivas Regal blends.
Commenced production: 8th December 1894.
Architect: Charles C. Doig.
Founders: John Birnie (former manager of Glen Albyn), James Mackinlay of Charles Mackinlay & Co., whisky blenders.
¹ Charles Maclean's research suggests peat was shipped in from Orkney, as shown by the Eday Peat Company records, where Glen Mhor was purchasing Orcadian peat until 1939 - as shown in our Documents Section. Initially, Glen Mhor used peat from Dava Moor (Carrbridge), before switching to peat from Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire.