Here, we'll be listing any historical newspaper sources for Glen Mhor and discussing their relevance. These are in order of date of publication and thanks to Jeremy for his assistance.
Aberdeen Journal & General Advertiser for the North of Scotland - 28th February 1881
Here's a very early mention of John Birnie at Benrinnes with the price of barley being paid for in the region. Take a moment to look at some of the other names on this select list; George Cowie (Mortlach), the Grant's of Glenfarclas and Fleming of Aberlour immediately stick out.
The timing is perfect, as we know John joined Glen Albyn in 1885 and for 8 years prior was at the Benrinnes distillery. So, this is where his whisky career began and ultimately led to the creation of Glen Mhor. He was surrounded and potentially tutored by some major distillers in his earliest days.
Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser - Tuesday 16th April 1889
We know John Birnie was quite an adept golfer, and there are plenty of newspaper reports showing how well he was playing. However, these also confirm he was in Inverness (as manager/distiller of Glenalbyn) in 1889, so it gives us context.
Banffshire Advertiser - Thursday 16th November 1893
'New Distilleries in the North.
Mr John Birnie, late manager of Glenalbyn Distillery, Inverness, has taken off a feu for the immediate erection of a distillery, on a pretty large scale, in close proximity to where the Glenalbyn Distillery is situated...'
Given John Birnie's roots in Speyside and family, it's no surprise that the news of his new venture was so widely covered. This article is a lovely resource, giving us the dimensions of the site.
Inverness Courier - Friday 7th September 1894
'Draff - We, the undersigned, are now open to Book Orders for the ensuing Season's DRAFF. Prices to be for orders under 30 Bushes, 6d: for under 60 Bushels, 5.5d.: for 60 Bushels and upwards, 5d.
Signed: Haig & Co Millburn Distillery. R.V. Buchanan & Co. Haugh Brewery, Guild & Wylie, Thornbush Brewery, Mackinlays & Birnie, Glen-mhor distillery, The Glenalbyn distillery coy., Glenalbyn Distillery.'
Inverness Courier - Tuesday 22nd October 1895
'Stillman - wanted, Experienced STILLMAN by 5th November. Apply, with references, the Manager, Glen-Mhor Distillery, Inverness.' You can read our thoughts on this vacancy and what it might tell us.
Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 27 December 1895
'Additions have been made to the Inverness Tweed Mill, the Thornbush Brewery, and the Glen Mhor Distillery.'
Inverness Courier - Tuesday 7th January 1896
This entry gives us context regarding Charles W. Mackinlay who was a partner in the family firm with James Mackinlay, and introduced him to John Birnie, thereby enabling the creation of Glen Mhor.
The National Guardian July 10th 1896
Here's an interesting find thanks to Distillery View. An advertisement for a Wine and Spirits retailer that already mentions Glen Mhor and their representation. Despite the distillery not having whisky as such ready to bottle.
Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 28th August 1896
'Mr George Watson, farmer, Muirtown, near Inverness, thrashed a field of barley on Tuesday, and it was delivered in capital condition at the Glen Mhor distillery the same day. The natural weight turned out 57.5lbs, per bushel, which is regarded as highly satisfactory.'
Dundee Courier - Friday 16 October 1896
'Opening of a new distillery at Inverness.
On Wednesday afternoon the introduction of the electric light at the new Glen Mhor Distillery, erected at Muirtown, Inverness, by Messrs Mackinlay & Birnie, was made the subject of a very interesting ceremony. A large number of commercial and business gentlemen of the town were present, and, having been courteously shown over the premises, they were entertained to a sumptuous lunch by the proprietors.'
Ross-shire Journal - Friday 16 October 1896
'On Wednesday afternoon the electric light was introduced to the new Glenmhor Distillery erected at Muirtown, Inverness, by Messrs Mackinlay & Birnie.'
Northern Chronicle and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland - Wednesday 21 October 1896
'A large company of leading citizens of Inverness were last week entertained to luncheon at Glen-Mhor Distillery by Messers Mackinlay 7 Birnie, the occasion being the introduction of electric light into this new fully equipped establishment.
The installation was carried out by the British Electric Company, and the arrangements are particularly good for the efficient working of the distillery. The dynamo is worked by the turbine that works the machinery, the power, which is obtained by a thirty feet fall by the canal, being sampled for both purposes. After inspecting the lighting arrangements, and having a look around the premises - which were in exquisite order - the company sat down to a superb champagne lunch in the large grandory, Mr Mackinlay being in the chair, with Mr Birnie as croupier.
After the toast of Her Majesty, the Chairman gave "The Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of Inverness," and mentioned that Provost MacLean has sent word that he regretted his inability to be present. Ballie Johnathan Ross replied to the toast in happy terms? The installation of the electric light in the Distllery, ????, he said, what private enterprise could do. They tried a few years ago to get the electric light for the town of Inverness, but the proposal did not get the support of the council (applause).
Mr Mackinlay, who, on rising, was cordially applauded, said the manner in which the toast had been proposed and received had quite taken away any power of eloquence he possessed, and that was very little. His partner and himself were exceedingly obliged to the gentlemen present for the way they had received the toast of their health.
He was sorry that his poor brother, who had died in Inverness some nine months ago, had not lived to be present with them on this occasion. It was his brother who first met with Mr Birnie, and formed the idea of partnership in this distillery, which, he might say, had already proved a success (applause). He believed there was every reason to suppose that success would still continue.
There were two things necessary to make a distillery successful, and that was that there should be good whisky, and that an outlet should be found for it - (hear, hear). There was no one better qualified than Mr Birnie to make good whisky - (hear, hear) - and with the aid of their good friends in the trade they had been able to secure a good outlet for their whisky - (applause).
The distillery had now been opened for two years, and they took the occasion of the inauguration of the electric light to have the ceremony of that day. he could not say whether too much whisky was going to be made, considering all the new stills now in operation. There was no doubt that competition was very great; but, on the other hand, the demand for Scottish whisky was increasing. New outlets were being opened up, especially in continental cities and in the United States of America.'
Northern Counties - Wednesday 2nd December 1896
'At Inverness on Saturday afternoon, plans were lodged by competitive companies for the construction of the proposed lines from Inverness to Fort Augustus. In the case of the Highland Railway Company, the line will leave the north section at Clachnaharry, and keep the west side of the Caledonian Canal; thence sirt the shores of Loch Dochfur, immediately below Mr Ballie's mansion.
The line will hug as closely as possible the shores of Loch Ness, and will cross the Caledonian Canal for the first time at Fort Augustus, where it will join the line from Fort Augustus sanctioned last year. In the plans submitted on behalf of the North British and West Highland Railway Companies, it is proposed to start from Fort Augustus, at about the same spot, and follow almost the same route to Tomnahurich Bridge.
There it is proposed to cross the Caledonian Canal and form a junction on the Dalneigh Farm; one brand from this point running down to Tomnahurich Street, in close proximity to the suspension bridge, and the other running on past Glen Mhor distillery and the tweed mills to Upper Kessock Street, where it will join the Highland line.'
Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser - Tuesday 19th October 1897
'Messrs Mackinlays & Birnie have issued a handsome booklet bearing the title "Pictures of Inverness, with a Peep into Glen Mhor Distillery." The views of the Highland Capital and neighbourhood are beautifully printed, and descriptive notes are written by Mr Alfred Barnard. The pictures of Glen Mhor Distillery, both exterior and interior, are interesting, and give a capital idea of the arrangements.
From the letterpress and illustrations combined it is possible to get a clear understanding of the working of an up-to-date distillery. The booklet also contains a description, lavishly illustrated...'
'Visitors to Scotland can find out firsthand by touring Glen Mhor Distillery, Inverness, weekdays 10am to noon and 2 to 4pm.'
A promotional mention in an article highlighting travel to Scotland and whisky. What's interesting is that it confirms tours were being offered in 1971, which is unusual. Many distilleries had not yet thought about whisky tourism or the potential to offer tours.
This puts Glen Mhor amongst the first to do tours, Glenfiddich in 1969 claims the outright title, it might have not had a dedicated visitor centre (Glenfarclas was one of the first to build such a building in 1973), but it proves how forward-thinking the independent owners were. This is something we're seeing throughout the history of the distillery with a water turbine, electricity and the Saladin maltings.
Offering tours could also be the knock-on effect of struggling to find orders for filling? Onsite sales are unclear, but it also gives us the possibility that the distillery gates were unlocked to visitors for a short time at least, with DCL taking over in 1972, when these tours would have been no longer supported.
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