Glen Mhor Chapter 1987 Philip Morrice
Recently, I received a wonderful email from Philip Morrice regarding my work here on Glen Mhor. For those unaware, Philip is the author of the Schweppes Guide to Scotch, which was published in the 1980s and remains as essential today as it was when it first landed in booksellers.
I interviewed Philip a couple of years ago regarding the book and its creation, legacy and took much from our conversation. I was already brewing this Glen Mhor research project internally, and our discussion gave me that added motivation to finally realise this ambition. Philip has kindly offered the Glen Mhor chapter which in his own words...
“A truly brilliant source on a much-neglected fine whisky. I visited the distillery – and Glen Albyn – in 1985 just a week or so before they were both due to be demolished. I was doing research for my rewrite of the Alfred Barnard book which was published in 1987.”
I'm very humbled by such praise as Philip and his work has been a source of inspiration to me and many whisky enthusiasts. I've added Philip's kind words to our much overlooked quote page. My thanks to Mark Davidson as well, who kindly provided me with a copy of the Glen Mhor entry that has lingered for too long in my to-do-list.
I did ask Philip for any other memories regarding his visit to both distilleries as part of his research and he could only comment:
'All that I can really remember about my visit to Glen Mhor – and Glen Albyn – was that it was a very unpleasant day both in terms of the weather and the atmospherics with the two distilleries in the process of being demolished.'
Philip has kindly given permission to reproduce the Glen Mhor entry from his incredibly sought after book that revisited the work of Alfred Barnard, who had travelled across the UK for two years compiling his text. I presume Philip also embarked on a similar journey, but thankfully shortened due to a modern travel network.
We know that Glen Mhor was founded too late to appear in the original text from Alfred, so Philip's version brings the book up to date with its 1987 timeline, when many distilleries had only just departed. And I'm delighted to bring it to you now...
'Glen Mhor Distillery, Inverness
Proprietors: Scottish Malt Distillers Limited (Guiness PLC)
Registered Office: 1 Trinity Road, Elgin, Morayshire, IV30 1UF.
Managing Director: Dr K.G. MacKenzie
Distillery Manager: V. Ritchie (Until May, 1983)
Glen Mhor Distillery was built in 1892 by John Birnie, who had quit the adjacent Glen Albyn Distillery, in partnership with James Mackinlay of the Leith blending house of Charles Mackinlay & Company Limited. The partnership was transformed in 1906 into a private limited company with John Walker & Sons Limited taking a substantial shareholding. The rest of its business history is as for Glen Albyn.
Glen Mhor was the first distillery in Scotland to convert from traditional floor maltings to mechanical maltings which it did in 1949. Subsequently, the heating of the stills was changed from coal to oil base.
With the acquisition of Glen Albyn in 1920 by the owners of Glen Mhor, the two neighbouring distilleries ceased to compete and began working in harness. They have, in effect, been an integrated operation ever since, but as two production units turning out two quite distinctive whiskies.
Production as Glen Mhor commenced in 1894. it had been designed by the Elgin based distillery architect, Charles Doig, and was constructed in such a way as to give easy access to the Caledonian Canal for the discharging of grain and despatch of whisky.
Glen Mhor enjoyed early success, and a larger mash tun was installed and two new washbacks added. In 1925, a third still was introduced. The original water turbine provided power for the malt mill, the malt elevator, and the mash tun, right up to the 1950s when electric motors replaced it. However, it was retained until about 1960 as the power base for the switchers in tun room. In 1963, the Glen Mhor stills were converted to internal heating by steam from the conventional external heating by coal-fired furnace.
Although the Glen Mhor site of four acres (1.6 hectares) is considerably smaller than Glen Albyn's seven acres (2.8 hectares), production at the former of 1.3 million 1.a. per annum was slightly greater than that of Glen Albyn. And although the latter is the senior of the two, Glen Mhor was the better known of the two whiskies, having for long been bottled as a ten years old single malt by Charles Mackinlay & Company Limited on behalf of the proprietors. However, it has latterly been used only for blending. It is a pity to think that once existing stocks are exhausted there will be no more Glen Mhor.'
Immediately of interest, is the mention of the last distillery manager at Glen Mhor, a V. Ritchie, which seems likely to be J. Val Ritchie, who sadly passed in 2017 in this family announcement and was noted to be employed at Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. I do wonder if he is any relation to a prior Glen Mhor distillery manager with the same surname? Only time will tell.
The rest of the information validates what we've uncovered and detailed as part of the ongoing research project. It is of interest that Philip states 1925 for the 3rd still, which I'd love to detail more. However, this is repeatedly the consistent date that is mentioned in sources and the Saladin Box (mechanical maltings) is bang on the money.
While an incredibly rare and collectable book, long since deleted. I'm delighted to bring you the Glen Mhor entry and will be also doing the same for Glen Albyn on its own website in due course.