Distillery Info

Information on Glen Mhor was fairly thin on the ground, or that's what everyone believed until we started this project.

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.

Turbine: installed in 1893, by Frederic Nells of London, this turbine utilised the Caledonian Canal to provide electricity to the distillery and was still in use - albeit in a more limited form - until 1960 when the turbine was retired.

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, in 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.

Malt was soaked for around 70 hours, before being laid out on the malting for and manipulated for 10-12 days.

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 and heated to 180 degrees.

Barley: locally grown until 1980, Golden Promise was being used in 1968 and 1969, also 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.

It is also noted that John Birnie preferred to use locally grown grain and 'went round the doors' for local growers to provide this. When the whisky boom of the 1890s took off, foreign grain was imported as local grain had become more expensive. Following the boom collapse in 1898, Birnie, like many other distillers, sought out local grain and was purchasing bere barley as late as in 1921 from growers just south of Inverness at Daviot.

In 1975, Glen Mhor was using 75 tons of barley per week.

Peat Source: local peat from Foyers, Carrbridge, Aberdeenshire and also Eday on Orkney¹ as shown in this invoice from 1921.

Coal Source: Bowhill mine in Fife was shipping coal to the distillery in 1916 and 1917. 

Barley Hopper & Brewing Plant: was upgraded in September 1947.

Steeps: 2 new conical steeps were installed in 1949. 

Mill: the original mill was a Boby 2-high model, this was later replaced by a 4-high Porteus Mill. When this change took place, or what happened to either mill, is unknown.

Mash tun: the original mash tun we know in 1898 was capable of handling 250 bushels, or approximately 1.61 tonnes. I believe it is shown in this image. 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. We know from research, that the 7th washback was in use during 1938 as it is mentioned in this Customs & Excise entry

The wort was cooled to 85 degrees fahrenheit before being filled into the washbacks.

The room expansion plans from 1898 are available here

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. The yeast was certainly used during the first year of production as discussed in this article.

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, seen in this image. The proposed increase in stills from 1898 is available here. The tiled still furnaces were manufactured by Messrs J. and J. Glover of Dundee.

Spirit still (Low Wines): one. Originally built by Glasgow firm, Fleming, Bennet & McLaren. A capacity of 6,919 litres also onion-shaped. The 2nd low wines still was 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.

Wash still: one. Originally built by Glasgow firm, Fleming, Bennet & McLaren. A capacity of 8,128 litres, onion-shaped. 

A rummager was in use as suggested by our 1920s still room images and also train invoices confirming brass was being sent during the silent season. 

This colour image from 1971, shows us the 2 stills in their final arrangement and set-up.

Cooling: traditional submerged worms. 

Indirect heating: by steam coils which were installed in 1963 at a cost of £18,000.

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.

Bricks & Piping: an order from November 1894 confirms that the fire-proof properties of Glenboig Union Fire Clay Co, were utilised at the distillery, including piping as well. 

Annual production: noted in 1894 to be 130,000 gallons per annum, during the Second World war in 1940 it was 84,922.50 gallons, and 320,000 gallons post-war. Noted to be 1,300,000 during SMD era and in 1975, 9000 gallons per week.

Excisemen: Robert Ferguson (1894-1907), John B. James (1908), T.M. Kerin (1911) is interesting listed as the exciseman for both Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn. J. McGlynn (1912), T.M. Kerin (1914), Neil M. Gunn (1921 until mid-1937), Gilbert W. Peterkin (1937-1948), thereafter it seems a mix of individuals, with a G.Dawson being the most common during the 1960s.

Distillery Managers: 

December 1894 - October 1937 Robert Robertson and research suggests he managed both Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor from 1930 onwards.

October 1937 - ???? James Ritchie (joined the distillery team as head brewer in 1930)

???? - May 1983 V. Ritchie (also noted to be the manager of Glen Albyn at this time, suggesting that the roles were combined at some stage)

Staff: in 1953, William Birnie confirmed 26 men were employed across both Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn.

Stillman: we believe John Birnie was the first given his experience as a distiller, then advertised for a stillman in 1895. These dates are when they are noted to be present, but their service will have started before and ended after these dates. Also, given the nearby location of Glen Albyn distillery, there were only a couple of Stillmen at any one time in Inverness, so while we can separate employees of Millburn distillery (which is on the other side of the city), it is harder to distinguish between the 2 Telford Street distilleries as of yet. 

1894 - John Birnie

1899 - John Smith (living at 24 Telford Street)

1901 - William Mackenzie (living on 27 May Court) noted to be in the role until 1937

1937 - James Ritchie (promoted to manager in 1939)

1939 - Kenneth Mackenzie (noted in role in 1942)

1969 - Sandy Campbell (from descriptions had been at the distillery for many years)

1975 - Angus Mackay (noted to have been at Glen Mhor for 20 years)

1983 - Duncan McDougal (the last in a long line)

Weighing machines: the originals were replaced in October 1937 with Avery machines being selected.

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 was originally 200ft in length. This was expanded in 1895 to 315 feet in length, capable of holding 150,000 gallons of whisky. Warehousing was subsequently added, these new warehouses would join onto the original warehouse and form the famous backdrop to the football ground situated directly behind.

Ongoing research would suggest in 1896 the first of these expansions took place. Subsequent warehousing added from 1898 onwards, was 135 feet in length (132 inside) and 62 feet in width. The final warehousing was added in 1914 and replicated the 1898 additions.

Externally, Glen Mhor had 8 warehouses in total, but the Distilleries of Great Britain refers to 9 in total, which we explain why in greater detail.

In 1959, a new modern warehouse was added to the southern end of the site, able to hold 285,000 gallons of whisky. This was joined in 1964 by another warehouse alongside, at a cost of £17,500, capable of holding a similar amount. This took the total warehousing buildings to 10, but 11 in total. 

In this article, using a series of casks in 1950, we can calculate that the ‘Muirtown warehouses were losing strength slowly rule of thumb 0.5% per year, so a relatively dry warehouse considering its location.’


A memory from Rodney Burtt (former employee) in our Quotes Section highlights that 98% of maturing stock at Glen Mhor, was destined for blending purposes. 

Mackinlay's, Shackleton. Also supplied to Dewars, White Horse, VAT 69 and Black & White

In 1916, MacDonald & Muir (Highland Queen), Cockburn & Campbell who were primarily based in London.

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. And also in the 1950s, J.W. Christieson (Caledonian Bottling Stores) purchased several parcels of casks. 

In the 1970s we also have proof that Chivas also accepted at least 1 parcel of casks for its Chivas Regal blends.


Built: 1892-1894.

Commenced production: 8th December 1894.

Closed: 1983.

Demolished: 1986.

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 - as shown in our Documents Section. Initially, Glen Mhor used peat from Dava Moor (Carrbridge), before switching to peat from Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire