Glen Mhor Distillery Research Update
It seems like I've opened up a new undiscovered portal when I started this Glen Mhor project. The original aim was to give you a resource for all things related to this distillery that's been overlooked by the whisky writing community, like so many other closed distilleries. Ten months in, I believe that's already been achieved and then some.
While the physical has been lost and eroded into dust and a retail car park, the liquid, memories and documentation live on. The research just keeps on giving and for a distillery that was in physical existence for 102 years (and less, active), there's so much yet to bring you.
With this in mind and to keep my own sanity, I thought it would be good to have a state of play and preview of what's incoming. When engaged in research such as this, a spiders web soon develops, with different strands leading off down dark alleys. Think of it as a treasure hunt in a maze with plenty of false alarms, pitfalls and dead ends. Once in a while, you get lucky and it makes all the 'wasted' effort worthwhile.
So, to keep my sanity in check, here's a preview and list of in-progress strands that will hopefully pay off.
1917 Railway Invoices
Just a couple of these Highland Railway documents are left to decipher. After this resource has dried up, I expect to do an overview piece on what we've seen and any patterns. Already, they've given us great insight into the comings and goings at Glen Mhor during this pivotal period.
Saladin Box Companies
I've checked out all the firms involved in the creation of the Saladin boxes. Only Robert Boby Ltd. has some historical documentation in the Suffolk archives. Unfortunately, based on a preliminary sweep, the material is missing the 1940s period when these Boxes were installed. Not all of the records have been catalogued and there is also a Malting guide published in the 1960s that may mention previous work. So, my plan is to dig deeper into what they have and cover the costs of the archivist. Could be a dead-end, but leave no stone unturned.
Distillery 1893 Plans
Worth waiting on. What I can say from the originals is that the distillery has changed more than we expected and I'm not just referring to the known work at the site. This original form will give us much to consider. The photographs are being enhanced (the plans were too big and delicate to photocopy, plus pandemic restrictions limited copying options), and then, I need to sit down with the original Doig plans and evaluate these.
The Archives has given us every post-1894 amendment into the 1930s. Some of this is to be expected, such as new warehousing. But there are other movements and additions that are really exciting and give us so much more insight.
These are stacking up. Unfortunately, partially due to the pandemic, nursery seems like a consistent source of bugs and I won't review a whisky if I'm not feeling 100%. Glen Mhor prices also seem to be rising on a stupid basis, limiting what I can do here. I was asked about a Patreon page to help with funding. I'm not sure about this as my research is non-commercial and not for profit (unlike most whisky-related undertakings). I'd like to keep it this way.
Robert Robertson & John Birnie
I've done some ancestry research on both as I plan to have individual pages (where possible) to those figures of note at the distillery. These will take time to form and I still need to identify their final resting places in the old cemetery in Inverness. That's over 15,000 graves to walk past and consider. This one, needless to say, is on the backburner!
Customs & Excise Logbook 1936-1960s
This is very exciting. Neil M Gunn is arguably the most famous individual connected with Glen Mhor, but there is very little information other than he worked at the distillery in a customs and excise role. The discovery of this logbook gives us the last year of his career, as he then decided to pursue writing full-time.
I have seen some of his entries and the level of detail recorded by this log gives us the most minor change requests at the distillery that required a government official to approve. This will be a 2022 focus, in the meantime, I will be bringing you some initial insight articles and I've contacted the Neil M Gunn society to let them know this resource has been found.
The legacy of Rodney keeps on giving. An old letter provided an address and a search confirmed that the house is up for sale. Making contact with the Estate Agent, I'm now in contact with a relative of Rodney and they do have his Glen Mhor materials. With a list forthcoming, we might have some new discoveries, but this strand has also underlined the personal aspect of the research. The thanks of a relative for keeping his legacy and passion for Glen Mhor alive and that's a huge plus for me personally.
So, there you have it. The works in progress and I've probably missed some. My door remains open for new materials, samples and information. Please get in touch if you have something to offer.