Timeline



This is an ongoing work in progress, with various dates already being identified for the same event or addition. We'll try to make sense of them all whilst celebrating Glen Mhor:


1885

John Birnie takes charge of the Glen Albyn distillery, after spending 8 years at Benrinnes. A former banker, he would be instrumental in creating Glen Mhor. He was also a keen golfer, curler and had a farm at Balnafettack, North West Inverness.


January 1886

The Inverness Dean of Guild Court approves 'a new distillery', called Glen Mhor and opening that October.


1892

Harpers Weekly reports that annual production at Glen Albyn had trebled in 5 years thanks to 'the active management of Mr John Birnie, the manager and distiller, who is well qualified for the position he occupies.'


1892

Sir Kenneth Matheson, the 2nd Baronet of Lochalsh, the largest landowner in Ross-shire, agrees with Mackinlay & Birnie on the distillery site by the Caledonian Canal. 

 

1892

Glen Mhor is founded by John Birnie and James Mackinlay. It was James' brother (Charles W. Mackinlay) who introduced him to Mr Birnie. The Mackinlay's were aware of increasing demand from export markets for Highland malt and were seeking a new venture. Designed by Charles Doig and located over 4 acres on Telford street at the Muirtown basin at the Inverness end of the Caledonian Canal.


16th November 1893

A newspaper article briefly mentions a new 'pretty large scale' distillery for immediate erection with John Birnie as owner.  


16th November 1893

The Banff Advertiser reports 'Mr John Birnie, late manager of Glenalbyn Distillery, Inverness, has taken off a feu for the immediate erection of a new distillery...'


8th January 1894

The Inverness Dean Guild approves the plans for a distillery on Telford Street, Muirtown, subject to the 'height of the smoke shaft not being less than 60 feet.' 


12th January 1894

The Elgin Courant reports the dimensions of the site as being 'the frontage of the whole building, which will look southwards, extending to 150 feet. The side part will run parallel with Telford Street to the extent of 130 feet. The Malt barn will be two storeys, 25 feet wide and will stretch the whole length of the building. The grain store will be 125 feet long by 25 feet broad.'


1894

Harpers Weekly describes Glen Mhor as being 'three extensive blocks built in the form of a triangle, the right wing containing the large malt barns, kiln and granary, which later abuts on the canal, giving easy facility for the discharging of grain from steamers and barges. The left wing is apportioned to the mashing department, fermenting room and still house, the whole being fronted by malt stores, mill room, distillery and excise offices and private rooms for the partners. There is nothing decoration or grand about the appearance of the buildings; nevertheless they are most solidly constructed and well arranged for carrying on the world efficiently.'


1894

The distillery is noted to have 'the tun-room, 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.'

The original warehouse formed the south wall of the site and was 315 feet in length, able to store 150,000 gallons of whisky.


18th June 1894

The owners of Glen Mhor take out fire insurance to protect them from the scourge of any distillery. The document is available to view in our Document Section.


7th September 1894

Glen Mhor distillery, along with other breweries and distilleries in the area, is advertising the availability of draff for sale suggesting that production had begun.


8th December 1894

Production begins officially - this date is now disputed due to the above entry.


18th December 1894

Mr Robert Robertson officially leaves his role as Assistant Brewer at the Mortlach Distillery to take up his role as Head Brewer at Glenmore in Inverness, aka Glen Mhor. He would remain in this role, on-site, until his passing in 1937.


1896

Charles W. Mackinlay dies young and James Mackinlay takes his eldest son, Charles Mackinlay, into partnership with a Thomas Dewar.


August 1896

Barley from Muirtown, near Inverness, is being used at the distillery.


October 1896

Electric lighting is introduced at the distillery, powered by a nearby canal turbine.


January 1897

The cost of building houses and a bonded warehouse is noted to be £1700. This new warehouse joins onto the northern side of the existing warehouse and was around half its length, backing onto the football ground behind.


October 1897

Mackinlay & Birnie publish a booklet entitled Pictures of Inverness, with a peep into Glen Mhor Distillery, by Alfred Barnard.


1898

The entire production for this season is sold-out in advance to blenders and trade contracts.


20th October 1898

Mackinlay & Birnie agree a deal (once again) with Sir Kenneth Matheson, the 2nd Baronet of Lochalsh, for land adjacent to the distillery and petition the council on this day with their plans.


November 1898

Planning for a duty-free warehouse in Telford Street was approved with a projected cost of £573.


16th May 1904

The distillery grounds are flooded but the buildings escape damage. 


1906

The firm is incorporated as Mackinlay & Birnie. John Walker & Sons acquire a 40% interest in Glen Albyn distillery.


1907

Ernest Shackleton ships bottles of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt to the South Pole for his expedition. These are later discovered over a century later and scientifically examined confirming the source as Glen Mhor.


1909

Glen Mhor only operates at a third of capacity during the winter months.


1910

The distillery is idle for 5 months during the summer.


1910

John Birnie, co-founder and distiller of Glen Mhor, becomes Provost of Inverness for 6 years. In total, he would serve 16 years on the town council. He also served as treasurer and as the magistrate for 3 years.


1910

Amazingly, John Birnie also found the time to become the President of the Malt Distillers' Association of Scotland until 1912.


1914

Glen Mhor is one of only five distilleries requisitioned by the government during World War I. The site is occupied by the United States Navy.


January 1917

Glen Mhor was not only providing casks to Mackinlays in Leith, but also Johnnie Walker and Slate Rodgers Co. both based in Glasgow. Casks were also sent to Black & Ferguson in Aberdeen and also in Leith, A. Baillie & Co, MacDonald & Muir and Ford & Sons.


June 1917

Maturing whisky from Glen Albyn, is kept at Glen Mhor during the US navy occupation until 1919. The stills at Glen Mhor also fall silent as barley records in our Documentation section confirm. Works starts to prepare the site for the naval base conversion in June.


9th February 1918

The military base comes online and starts producing mines.


17th September 1918

The US Navy base is completely demobilised and turned over to a UK naval officer at 10am.


10th January 1919

Distilleries across Scotland are allowed to commence production. Glen Mhor is delayed possibly due to the previous occupants.


1st March 1919

Glen Mhor restarts production.


1920

Glen Mhor distillery takes over Glen Albyn distillery. Both will eventually run in tandem.


1921

Neil M. Gunn becomes the Exciseman at Glen Mhor.


1925

A third still installed along with a larger mash tun and two new washbacks¹. Through our research, we've identified this previously unknown still and its size. A gas engine was possibly installed around this time to provide 19hp and to supplement the water turbine.


1925

The quayside access becomes increasingly used by both Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. Receiving peat from Orkney, barley is also delivered and whisky is sent by canal to Glasgow. The use of the waterway continued until the arrival of the Second World War.


15th October 1934

Glen Mhor begins distilling for the season and announces it will be using more Scottish barley in doing so.


1937

Neil M. Gunn leaves his role as Exciseman to pursue his ambition of becoming a full-time writer.


13th October 1937

Robert Robertson passes away on Glenalbyn House on Telford Street. He had been the distillery manager of Glen Mhor for 43 years (since its foundation) and prior to this had been at Mortlach Distillery. He was 72 years old and secretary of Messrs Mackinlays and Birnie.


1943

Glen Mhor falls silent due to World War 2 restrictions.


8th November 1944

Glen Mhor is among the 32 distilleries given permission to restart distilling in the New Year.


23rd February 1946

John 'Jack' Birnie passes away after a short illness. The co-founder and former distiller at Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor, was the managing director of Mackinlay's & Birnie Limited. He was 92 at the time of his death and noted to be 'the oldest distiller in Scotland'.


1949

A new dressing plan built by George Porteous & Sons, is installed. 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.


1949

Grain Store capacity is more than doubled without any extra building - this suggests that one of the unused malting floors was adapted for grain storage.


June 1949

The ending of floor malting on-site and the malting floor being prepared for a Saladin Box.


July 1949

The capacity of the Kiln is more than trebled. Two conical Steeps (by George Porteous & Sons) are also installed. 


17th October 1949

The Saladin Box comes online at Glen Mhor, making it the first malt distillery to utilise the technology. The Box has 60-foot long concrete walls, 8-feet apart and 6-feet high.


18th November 1949

The Saladin plant is officially opened with the Company Chairman and Directors in attendance for a special dinner with the Member of Parliament for Inverness-shire and his Wife, Sir Murdoch and Lady Macdonald, together with the Provost of Inverness and his Wife, Mr and Mrs Grigor. 


19th November 1949

Staff and their friends were entertained to a Dinner Party in the Cumming's Hotel. Mr William Birnie, Managing Director, informed the gathering that it was a dual function, first to commemorate the opening of the Saladin Plant at Glen Mhor distillery, and secondly, to commemorate the centenary of Glen Albyn Distillery.


1954

Electric motors are introduced to take over the powering of the malt mill, malt elevator and mashtun, which were previously powered by the water turbine. 


1956

Glen Mhor is supplying Archibald, Campbell, Hope & King of Elgin with stock for their Campbell's blend.


1960

Switchers for the washbacks, are no longer powered by water, as the turbine is retired.


1960

Scottish barley is now delivered by lorry to the distillery.


1963

All the stills switched to steam heating, but were still fired by a coal-stoked furnace. At this time, Glen Mhor (and Glen Albyn) were one of the first to distilleries to adopt this innovation.


May 1970

William Birnie laments that no one in the industry is listening to his statical analysis that too much Scotch Whisky is being produced and distilleries will have to close.


May 1971

The distillery offers tours, weekdays 10am to noon and 2 to 4pm. Making it one of the first to do so.


1972

The Distillers Company make a successful offer for Mackinlay & Birnie, already owning John Walker & Sons, who had a 43.5% stake in the firm. 10.9% was owned by Mackinlay McPherson Ltd (Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd.). With the remaining split between 11 members of the Birnie family and 14 members of the Mackinlay family. The offer of £765,000 (equivalent to £8.8 million in 2021) is accepted, citing the difficulties of recent years; 'the number of M&B's fillings has decreased due to greater integration within the industry and it is felt that this trend would continue.' DCL in comparison, badly needed Highland whiskies to supplement its blending stock. 


January 1973

New owners, DCL, announce that the Glen Mhor 6 year old and 10 year old expressions, will cease being bottled in December 1973. Glen Mhor will now be for blending only, although independent bottlings are encouraged. 


May 1973

William Birnie, son of  John Birnie and himself a former owner, passes away, aged 85. In the 1960s, he had predicted the overproduction of the Scotch whisky industry.


1976

A single malt Glen Mhor is introduced to the market as an 8 year old by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail.


1980

Saladin Box closes. Malt is instead, delivered by truck from central maltsters due to the high costs of running the boxes. Barley type is suggested as being Golden Promise and Triumph, both peated.


1981

Short-time working is introduced at the distillery to reduce costs and output. This stays in effect for 2 years.


16th February 1983

DCL announces a list of distilleries to close across Scotland (see our newspaper section) with Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor both closing with a combined loss of 22 jobs.


8th March 1983

The last distillation is run. This allows 12 weeks notice for closure.


31st May 1983

The distillery closes.


1985

The distillery is dismantled.


10th January 1986

Head warehouse operator, Mr D.J. MacDonald, receives a long service award from Scottish Malt Distillers.


1986

Glen Mhor is demolished.


2007

Three cases of Shackleton whisky were discovered beneath Shackleton's base camp at Cape Royds frozen in ice, containing 11 bottles in total. This whisky is scientifically examined and confirmed to be from Glen Mhor.


28th March 2011

Ex-employee Rodney Burtt, writes to the Institute of Brewing & Distilling about his unpublished book about his time at Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn. Originally entitled Highland Gold, this was renamed in 1986, Spirits Within. So far, it remains lost and unpublished. 


2011

The Mackinlay's Shackleton whisky recreation is released in an edition of 50,000 bottles, with more editions set to follow. Famously, Whyte & Mackay Master Blender, Richard Paterson was challenged with the recreation. His eureka moment when trying to rebuild the whisky was to add a cask of 1983 Glen Mhor - a very rare vintage because the distillery hardly produced in its last year of existence. The whole concept is well documented in this New York Times article.


15 August 2017

J. Val Ritchie, formerly of Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn distilleries, passes away aged 86. 


¹ Some reports suggest that the mashtun and washbacks were installed prior to the first World War and the still was delayed until 1925. 

Comments