Glen Mhor 1895 North British & Mercantile Insurance Company


The document's title is grand, and its content has deteriorated somewhat. Despite this, it still maintains a sense of significance. 

Fire was a significant and constant threat to any distillery. The Scotch whisky annuals contain numerous entries regarding fires, from the unfortunate events at Banff to more recent incidents at Talisker. Fire should be both feared and respected. 

This document was one of many purchased for this research project thanks to the generosity of individuals whom I may never meet in person. Their assistance has ensured that these documents will be evaluated and added to this collection, as well as viewed in person. My thanks to each and every one of them is a constant.

This document may be the first or second fire insurance document for Glen Mhor distillery. It is officially known that production began on December 8th, 1894. The distillery was operational a few months prior to this date. It is unclear whether Mackinlay & Birnie had insurance for their distillery prior to the signing of this document on 19th April 1895, and stamped as approved on the 25th. Alternatively, they may have only obtained insurance once a significant number of casks were filled and stored on site. Potentially, as in 1894 a name was still not decided upon, a more 'distillery Inverness' policy was taken out prior to an official naming.

The policy does not have a specific end date, but it can be renewed each year by the 15th of May. The insurance arrangement had a maximum pay out of £2000, which is equivalent to approximately £324,000 in today's currency.

As with all insurance documents, attention to detail is crucial. Upon further examination of the original statement, its purpose becomes clearer:

'stock in trade including casks the property of the insured or held by them in trust or on commission for which they are responsible in no case including the market value of the same immediately and prior to the fire in Duty Free Warehouse initiated detached from above Distillery and marked 100 yards? sketch lodged with this office.'

So, this document does not relate to the buildings themselves, which underlines there must already be separate cover in place for that purpose. Instead, this policy is for the casks held in the Duty Free Warehouse. This correlates perfectly with what we know what was happening on site at Glen Mhor.

Plans were being made to expand the only warehouse on site in November 1895. The original warehouse was to be extended from 200ft to 315ft, making it the largest warehouse on the site (known as warehouse 1 and 2). This imposing warehouse, would be the largest on the southern edge of the site. 

Here we can see the cause and effect of increased production and the resulting demand for Glen Mhor. Mackinlay & Birnie had already advertised Glen Mhor as an exceptional prospect to fill orders. 

The outer folds offer additional information. The document is marked as 'cancelled' and 'No.19a nb Insurance Ltd', which is part of the Glen Mhor filing system that is becoming more prevalent in these items. There's also an added note in the top left of what must have been the original outer facing page, simply as 'whisky stock'.

On 6th May 1897, there is a handwritten entry from a representative of the Union Street, Inverness branch of the insurer. The entry reads as follows:

'It is hereby enclosed that the insurance by this Policy shall now cover stock in trade including casks ???? and other ???? in within mentioned Warehouse No.17 on sketch and the two new extensions attached, all under one roof or communicating and marked nos 17a + 17b. The cubical contents the combined Warehouses do not exceed 300,000 feet.'

It is revealing that the policy was still in effect in 1897 and had been amended to include the continued focus on building new warehouses at Glen Mhor. These would be positioned along the eastern edge of the site, next to the football ground. The insurer is using the Cubical Content Method to determine the cost of the structure. It is important to note that no warehouse at Glen Mhor could be 300,000 feet in length. It is a method commonly used for buildings that have additional levels and is considered accurate.

The reference to number 17 is also of interest, as Glen Mhor did not have 17 warehouses, and never would. Additionally, this document predates the ownership of Glen Albyn distillery by 25 years, so that's a non-starter. I would offer that it is reasonable to assume that this insurer possessed other documentation and policies relating to Glen Mhor (and possibly the blending business of the Mackinlay's), which are currently unavailable, that pertain to the buildings located on the site. It is reasonable to expect that a detailed map of the site, with each area numbered, would have been stored in the event of a claim. 

In January 1897, it was reported in the press that a new bonded warehouse, along with housing for workers, was being considered for Glen Mhor at a cost of £1700. Based on the detailed plans of the site, I can confirm that at the time of this 1898 planning application for a new warehouse along the stadium boundary, it was essentially warehouse no.5. The construction dates of warehouses 3 and 4 remain somewhat mysterious, although I speculated in the prior article and, for once, this insurance document confirms my hypothesis.

It is probable that, at the time of this amendment, the stocks were due to moving into these new buildings and require policy inclusion. Therefore, two new extensions were being added to the original warehouse and near completion in May 1897.

This insurance company has long ceased trading, but its records may be held in the Aviva Archives. I have contacted their archivists to inquire about any documentation that could assist this research, so hopefully new avenues await.