Quotes



Here, we'll reveal what everyone has had to say over the years regarding Glen Mhor. All rights retained by the original authors and credit is given.


A Century of Whisky - Gavin Smith, 2001

'Distilling is recorded as having taken place on a least a dozen sites in the Highland capital of Inverness, where three working distilleries survived until the 1980s. Glen Albyn dated from 1844, and in 1892, during the whisky boom, a new sister distillery called Glen Mhor was built on a neighbouring site. While the make of both distilleries was principally used for blending, Glen Mhor was also respected as a single malt. Both distilleries fell victim to DCL cuts during the 1980s, and have disappeared entirely beneath modern retail developments.' 


Alan Winchester, Master Distiller, The Glenlivet, 2021

'In the 1970s driving through old A9 to go hill walking, you could see and smell the 3 distilleries maltings.'


Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, Michael Jackson, 2004.

'Purists pronounce it the Gaelic way, 'Glen Vawr', to rhyme with 'law'. The distillery, built in 1892 in Inverness and demolished in 1986, was one of several at which the poet, novelist and pioneering whisky writer, Neil Gunn, worked as an exciseman. In his book, Scotch Missed, Brian Townsend writes that Gunn was inspired by Glen Mhor to let slip his observation that 'until a man has had the luck to chance upon a perfectly matured malt, he does not really know what whisky is'. Even in Gunn's day, Glen Mhor could be found as a single malt, and casks still find their way into independent bottlings.'


DCL Distillery Histories Series, Brian Spiller, 1981-1983.

'Harpers Weekly, a trade journal, reported in 1892 that the premises had been considerably enlarged, notably by the addition of a second range of bonded warehouses. Annual output had more than trebled within the last five years. "The growth of the business" (it commented) "is largely due ot the active management of Mr John Birnie, the manager and distiller, who is well qualified for the responsible position he occupies." It is said that Birnie was frustrated in his ambition to gain a shareholding in Glen Albyn. In 1892, in partnership with Charles Mackinlay & Co., whisky and wine merchants, of Leith, he acquired a site just across the road from his old shop, and established Glen Mhor Distillery, trading as Mackinlays and Birnie.

Harper's announced on 8 December 1894 that Glen Mhor had began production. It had been designed by Charles Doig, distillery architect, of Elgin, and comprised "three extensive blocks built in the form of a triangle, the right wing containing large malt barns, kiln and granary, which latter abuts on the canal, giving easy facility for the discharging of grain from steamers and barges. The left wing is apportioned to the mashing department, fermenting room and still house, the whole being fronted by malt stores, mill room, distillery and excise offices and private rooms for the partners. There is nothing decorative or grand about the appearance of the buildings; neverthless they are most solidly constructed and well arranged for carrying on the work efficiently." "A large and powerful turbine wheel", driven by water from the canal, with a fall of 30 feet, supplied all the motive power. Electric light, generated from the turbine, was introduced two years later.

The partnership was converted to a private company in 1906, with the participation of a trade customer, John Walker & Sons Ltd. of Kilmarnock, which held 40% of the shares. Some years later, Mackinlays & Birnie Ltd., with the intention of doubling output, replaced their small mash tun with a larger one and installed two additional washbacks, but had not got round to putting in a second pair of stills when the Great War broke out. All malt distilleries were closed, in the interest of conserving barley, from 1917 to 1919, when Glen Albyn became a US naval base for the manufacture of mines. M & B bought this distillery in 1920, and by 1925 had added a third still at Glen Mhor, where a gas engine of 19hp supplemented the water turbine.'


Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor - Rodney Burtt, 2013

Taken from Gavin D. Smith's Stillhouse Stories and Tunroom Tales, 2013.

On the Saldin Boxes:

'The Saladin Boxes were introduced to Glen Mhor in 1949 and to Glen Albyn in 1961. The former distillery was one of first to have a box installed on a trial-run basis. A pair of these was operating in each distillery by 1962 and they provided to be invaluable until 1980 when production costs reached exorbitant heights against the economic returns of updated mechanical maltings. 

Each Saladin Box consisted of parallel, concrete walls, 60-feet long, 8-feet apart and 6-feet high. They were joined at each end by removable iron gates, and the metal plates covering the floor area were perforated. The twenty tons of barley remained in this box for ten days, during which time the corn adopted its essential change in enzymes from starch to malt. 

What happened visually was this. After six days, small rootlets formed at the end of each grain, where roots would normally have appeared underneath field soil. The sprouting end which would otherwise have produced the stem is called the acrospire. This should never develop as it would absorb valuable food and energy stored within the husk that we want for malt conversion. Therefore it was imperative that selected strains of barley were of the best nitrogen content. In other words, the distiller wanted more root energy rather than plant enhancement.

Above the iron gates, at the end of the box, spanned a solid girder-type bar which supported four massive wor, screws, vertically attached. The whole frame was electrically powered to travel on cogs along the toothed rails, which ran along the top of the sides of the boxes.

Every eight hours, when a box was full of corn (barley), the mechanism set off on its journey at the rate of one foot every twenty seconds. As the worm screws twisted round they lifted the barley from the bottom reversing the top surfaces. The was the modern aerating method of turning. The barley was maintained at the correct temperature of 62f (16 degrees) and moisture content of twenty-seven-and-a-half perfect was sustained by the turning process, together with jets of water. These sprayed on to the barley from behind the worm screws as they moved along.'


Goodness Nose: Richard Paterson & Gavin D. Smith, 2010

Our original post on this book is here.

'I passed the great trinity of Inverness distilleries, Millburn, Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. All three were working busily in those days, but now Millburn is the Auld Distillery Slice restaurant and bar, while Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor have been totally obliterated, making way for the Telford Retail Park. I was particularly interested to see Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn, which stook beside the Caledonian Canal, since one of my grandfather's early business ventures had involved selling coal to many distilleries, including these two.'

'The Saladin malting system had been developed by Frenchman Charles Saladin in the 1890s, and consisted of a long, concrete or metal box, in which revolving metal forks moved slowly from end to end, turning and aerating the grain. However, it took the Scotch whisky industry half a century to embrace this innovation, and the first Saladin boxes were installed at Edinburgh's North British Grain Distillery in 1948. A year later Glen Mhor in Inverness followed suit, with Tamdhu adopting them in 1950.'


Harper's Weekly - trade magazine quoted by Charles Maclean in his research 

'There is nothing decorative or grand about the appearance of the buildings; nevertheless, they are most solidly constructed and well arranged for carrying on the work efficiently.'


Letter to Institue of Brewing & Distilling - Rodney Burtt, March 2011

'During my passage through the malting, mashing, distilling and warehousing departments I met many sturdy Highlanders with varying degrees of sobriety! As a result, I have written a short account which combines a factual description of the distilling process (in the late 1960s) with a human approach to the men who made it possible.

The title of my book was originally called Highland Gold up to 1983 and then Spirits Within after both distilleries closed in October 1986. I have neither found a publisher who can offer me a straight royalty basis, nor have I had sufficient monies to promote the undertaking.'


Malt Whisky Companion - Michael Jackson, 1989

'In his book, Scotch Missed, Brain Townsend writes that Gunn was inspired by Glen Mhor to let slip his observation that "until a man has had the luck to chance upon a perfectly matured malt, he does not really know what whisky is". Even in Gunn's day, Glen Mhor could be found as a single malt...'

'House style: Aromatic, treacly, quite sweet. With dessert or dinner.'


Malt Whisky - An Introduction to the spirit of Scotland, Peter M Dryburgh, 1999

This is available to download here.

'A much lamented victim of distillery closures is Glen Mhor, which was situated in Inverness but was wantonly demolished more than ten years ago. Glen Mhor has been described as the greatest after-dinner drink in existence. It is hard to discuss this whisky without straining the vocabulary: it is smooth, mellow, big and complex. Many brandies are unable to match the depth and subtlety of Glen Mhor.'


Malt Whisky The Complete Guide - Charles Maclean, 1997

'Neil Gunn, the famous Scottish novelist, was the Excise officer here.'

'Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor and Millburn are still occasionally available, all three of them classic examples of the Highland style.'


Memories of the US Navy, World War One, Caley Thistle forum, Can you remember?

'The American naval base is an interesting one. The Americans arrived late 1917/early 1918 and participated in minelaying activities between the Northern Isles and Norway in order to make life difficult for any German ship which did manage to evade the Grand Fleet. Then the Americans played a major part in sweeping the mines after the end of the war. I certainly remember my granny speaking about the Americans in the town and there did used to be the odd episode of bother.'


Memories of watching football, Caley Thistle forum, Can you remember?

'I must confess to having watched quite a few games from the roof of the warehouse of the Glen Mhor distillery in my time and more than once got a ticking off from one of the Caley committee when I decided to go legit and pay my way into Telford Street! Shame on me but I did have a cracking view....'


My Whisky Journey - Philip Morrice

'When I visited them in 1985 their demolition was well underway, although their licenses to distill were still extant.

Unusually, Glen Mhor was being bottled as a single malt from its very early days. It also featured as one of the whiskies in the bottles of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt found in 2007 intact in the ice under Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut!'


Neil M. Gunn - BBC Two Writing Scotland

'For a number of years, Gunn worked in London for the Civil Service before joining the Customs and Excise in 1911. Returning to the Highlands, Gunn worked as an Excise Officer until 1937, when increasing financial success allowed him to become a full-time writer.'


Neil Gunn Trust

'Then in 1923 they moved to Inverness, when Neil became the Excise Officer for the Glen Mhor Distillery. He worked there for the next 16 years.'


Scotch Whisky, Gavin D. Smith, 2000

'The Highland capital of Inverness has grown in size dramatically during the past two decades, but in that time the town has seen its links with distilling disappear. More than a dozen distilleries are recorded as having existed in Inverness at various times, and three survived until the 1980s. Some of Millburn distillery is still extant, but the other two Inverness distilleries were not so lucky, and no trace remains of either Glen Albyn or Glen Mhor, which formerly stood on the western outskirts of the town.'

'Glen Albyn was built in 1844 beside the Caledonian Canal, on the site of one of Inverness' many breweries, but after periods of silence and use as a flour mill it was rebuilt in 1884. Eight years later its owners constructed a nearby distillery between the canal and the River Ness, which they called Glen Mhor, Gaelic for the Great Glen. In 1972 the two distilleries were bought by DCL, and both fell victim to the 1980s cutbacks, ceasing production in 1983, and being demolished three years later to make way for a retail development.'


Scotch The Whisky of Scotland in fact and story - Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, 1951

'Mr Neil Gunn, who was an excise officer in the Highlands before he became one of Scotland's foremost and most Celtic authors, is more reluctant to commit himself and more Catholic in his appreciation. He gives high praise to Glen Mhor, and Inverness whisky.'


Scotch Whisky Its Past and Present - David Daiches, 1969

'from the quietly rich Glen Mhor...'

'Mr William Birnie, of Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn distilleries, an accountant who specializes in the statistics of whisky production and of the production of potable spirit in Britain generally - his Statistics relating to British Made Potable Spirit provide a unique set of figures.'

'Glen Mhor is owned by Mackinlays & Birnie Ltd., Inverness, and has been associated with the Birnie family for over seventy-five years.'

'Continuing south from Ross-shire to Inverness-shire we come to Glen Mhor distillery at Inverness. Glen Mhor is one of the truly great post-prandial whiskies, full, rich and mellow, slightly less peaty than Dalmore and with a smoother finish. The ten-year-old bottled by Charles Mackinlay & Co. of Leith at 75 proof shows is paces admirably. Glen Mhor is a 'bigger' whisky than a characteristic Speyside whisky, but it has some of the qualities of a Glenlivet.'


Stillman verse - Duncan McDougal, former stillman at Glen Mhor 

from Stillhouse Stories Tunroom Tales, 2013

'The Distilleries are closing - that is sorry news,

As Birnie had predicted - there's a glut of booze.

The Workers at Glen Albyn and also at Glen Mhor

Really were dumbfounded - shocked right to the core.

Summoned to the Stillhouse to hear the Managers say,

'It's the end of the road for us - we close at the end of May'

No doubt there were some murmurs and questions coming fast.

There was substance in those rumours - they've come true at last.

So ends an era of forty years, no less.

When Glen Albyn was a suburb of the town of Inverness.

If these grey walls could speak, what a story they could tell.

Of the many varied incidents that happened in 'The Stell.'

The roaring of the boiler is a thing of the past, 

And the mash going in on Tuesday has got to be the last.

'Can't give you a hand now lads - We're taking down a steep'

Everything is silent - the machinery is still.

No more loads of barley - no grist for the mill.

The Distillers Co may smile 'cos stocks are abundant'

But that is little comfort to folk who are redundant.'


The Hub of the Highlands : the book of Inverness and district - Inverness Field Club, 1990

'Inverness was famed for years as a malting town. Millburn Distillery and Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor Distilleries have been producing for 100 years, making their own malt, although great problems arose when America introduced prohibition in 1923. All these distilleries are now owned by two large Scottish concerns, although the last was privately owned until recently.'

'Inverness at the north end of the canal has three distilleries of Glen Albyn, Millburn and Glen Mhor. The three Inverness whiskies they produce approach the Banff-shire type in character.'

'In 1892, the Birnie family, in the person of Provost Birnie of Inverness (how these civic dignitaries keep getting into the act!) built, and mis-spelled, Glen Mhor Distillery just to the south of the older distillery. They were later to be joined by Charles Mackinlay & Co. of Leith in the proprietorship of both the canal-side distilleries. Glen Mhor (pronounced “‘vore’’) was not long in acquiring a considerable reputation as a single malt whisky. It has been said that this was due in no small part to the care that the Birnies took from the beginning, over the preparation and full maturing of the spirit before selling.'

'The whisky industry today in Inverness and District, in the rest of the Highlands of Scotland and in its ramifications elsewhere, is now so capital-intensive that distillery ownership has become a complex matter, and consequently it has a tendency to attract take-over bids. Too much of it has un- fortunately already passed into foreign or non-Scottish hands. The existence of the Distillers Company Limited one hopes will ensure that a sizeable part of the industry will remain under Scottish control, from a Company headquarters in Edinburgh. The D.C.L. is always on the look-out to strengthen its own position in the industry and especially on the malt whisky production side. Although D.C.L. had had a stake in the Glen Albyn/Glen Mhor Company of Mackinlays and Birnie Ltd., since 1960, it was only a minority one until July, 1972. In a deal concluded then, D.C.L. mopped up all the shares in the Company which it did not aready own or control — a dangerous 54% — which might have meant the controlling ownership

That success brings its own dangers with it, will be evident from the foregoing paragraph, and yet it must have been a very sad day for the late Mr William Birnie, the son of the Provost founder of Glen Mhor. Mr Birnie, then in his mid- eighties and who died earlier this year (1973), confirmed to the writer and to the local Press in Inverness that the deal, about which there had been so many rumours and reports in the town, had indeed gone through, and that Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor Distilleries had now been taken over by the Distillers Company Limited.'


The Whiskies of Scotland - McDowall, RJS, 1970

'From the banks of the Caledonian Canal at Inverness comes Clen Mhor named after the Creat Clen which runs west to Fort William. It is made with water from Loch Ness of monster fame. Here we have a whisky of real merit made by the Birnie family since 1892. The present amiable William Birnie makes a study of the statistics of whisky and has been the great pessimist suggesting that since stocks are accumulating whisky is being over-produced and that there will be a glut as there was in 1900. There certainly will never be a glut of delicious Glen Mhor. While it cannot be said to have any outstanding flavor it has an honest subtle richness and “fatness” reminiscent of the patina of old furniture, which it owes to the care with which it is made and the fact that it is so well matured before it is sold. This is a feature which the demand for whisky makes rare. To appreciate Clen Mhor at its best I advise taking it after one of the standard blends. Then one appreciates the words of Neil Gunn, the Scottish novelist, just after speaking of Glen Mhor, “that until a man has the luck to chance on a perfectly matured malt, he does not really know what whisky is.'

'It was at Glen Mhor that the method of malting in Saladin boxes was first used.'

'They are now well placed for the supply of malt whisky for their blends. The excellent Glen Mhor has already been described. Four blends are now marketed, “Mackinlay’s” a full bodied traditional whisky and “Legacy” a deluxe blend which I have not yet experienced. Under the McPherson label appear “Gluny” a standard light blend and a deluxe variety at twelve years old which is delicious. Both Mackin¬ lay and Gluny enjoy a thriving world wide export trade and Gluny is particularly popular in the United States.'

'In several distilleries Saladin boxes are used. These are long concrete or metal containers in which the barley may be spread after being steeped. Thereafter the aeration is carried out by slowly revolving metal forks which gradually travel up and down the boxes. The forks make it possible for the air to reach the seeds. The method was invented by M. Saladin, a French engineer, and introduced into several distilleries in the early 1950’s, the first being Glen Mhor, Tamdhu and Muir of Ord.'


The World Guide to Whisky - Michael Jackson, 1987

'Glen Mhor is described on the label as being 'rare'. Such epithets come easily to label-writers, but this one is valid, since the distillery is closed. Bottlings can, though, be found and this enjoyable nutty single malt.'


Whiskypedia - Charles Maclean, 2009

'John Birnie, manager of Glen Albyn distillery and largely responsible for its success (output had trebled between 1887 and 1892), was frustrated in his ambition to buys shares in the distillery, so he formed a partnership with Charles Mackinlay & Company, wine and whisky merchants in Leigh (Edinburgh), bought the site across the road from Glen Albyn and alongside the Caledonian Canal, and built Glen Mhor distillery. It went into production in 1894, designed by Charles Doig and with power supplied by a 30-foot-high turbine wheel driven by water from the canal. Electric motors were only replaced in the early 1950s, and even then it continued to be used for driving the switchers on the washbacks until about 1960.

Mackinlay & Birine became a limited company in 1906, with John Walker & Sons holding 40% of the shares, and bought Glen Albyn in 1920. A third still was added at Glen Mhor by 1925, and all stills went over to internal heating by steam in 1963. A Saladin box maltings was installed in 1949. MacKinlay & Birnie was acquired by D.C.L. in 1972 and transferred by S.M.D.

Glen Mhor was demolished in 1983 and the site is now a shopping centre.

Curiosities: Supplies to both Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn were delivered by sea via the Caledonian Canal, including peat for the malt kiln, which came from Orkney.'


William Birnie - A Memory of Nairn - Peter Kemp, 2014

from Francis Frith, thanks to Justine.

'My Grandfather was William Birnie, his father was John Birnie, they ran Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness, my sister and i have such wonderful memories of summer and winters in Inverness, having to walk along the river Ness after our lunch. He lived in a rather large house called ( i know that i am not even close on the spelling!!!!) Braeranoch House. For my recent birthday my daughter and son-in-law gave me a vintage bottle of his whiskey, i will have to crack it open for a very special occasion. I know that the distillery is now part of a parking lot at a shopping market there, but the memories of putting on his putting green outside his office and running around the rafters and jumping into the barley holds, is strong.'


William Birnie Memories - Peter Kemp, 2021

'Yes memories for sure, my sister and I were quite little as we enjoyed summer and winter vacations in Inverness, and playing most mornings the Glen Mohr office, the secretary's loved it as they put aside their work care for us.  I remember his office filled with unfortunately hunting collections!! large snake skin along the wall, Tiger mat below his desk other things hung!! the smell of Tabaco from his pipes.'

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