This is a constant work in progress, with various dates already being identified for the same event or addition. We'll try to make sense of them all whilst celebrating Glen Mhor and building a comprehensive timeline.
Charles Mackinlay establishes a wine merchant's in Leith, Edinburgh.
29th April 1884
John Birnie marries Mrs Birnie, and they would be together for many happy years, managing to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary 50 years later.
John Birnie takes charge of the Glen Albyn distillery, after spending 8 years at Benrinnes. A former banker, he would be instrumental in creating Glen Mhor. He was also a keen golfer, curler and had a farm at Balnafettack, North West Inverness.
The Inverness Dean of Guild Court approves 'a new distillery', called Glen Mhor and opening that October. Note: I've yet to find this entry in the Dean Guild records.
Harpers Weekly reports that annual production at Glen Albyn had trebled in 5 years thanks to 'the active management of Mr John Birnie, the manager and distiller, who is well qualified for the position he occupies.'
Sir Kenneth Matheson, the 2nd Baronet of Lochalsh, the largest landowner in Ross-shire, agrees with Mackinlay & Birnie on the distillery site by the Caledonian Canal.
Glen Mhor is founded by John Birnie and James Mackinlay. It was James' brother (Charles W. Mackinlay) who introduced him to Mr Birnie. The Mackinlay's were aware of increasing demand from export markets for Highland malt and were seeking a new venture. Designed by Charles Doig and located over 4 acres on Telford street at the Muirtown basin at the Inverness end of the Caledonian Canal.
16th November 1893
A newspaper article briefly mentions a new 'pretty large scale' distillery for immediate erection with John Birnie as owner.
16th November 1893
The Banff Advertiser reports 'Mr John Birnie, late manager of Glenalbyn Distillery, Inverness, has taken off a feu for the immediate erection of a new distillery...'
8th January 1894
The Inverness Dean Guild approves the plans for a distillery on Telford Street, Muirtown, subject to the 'height of the smoke shaft not being less than 60 feet.'
12th January 1894
The Elgin Courant reports the dimensions of the site as being 'the frontage of the whole building, which will look southwards, extending to 150 feet. The side part will run parallel with Telford Street to the extent of 130 feet. The Malt barn will be two storeys, 25 feet wide and will stretch the whole length of the building. The grain store will be 125 feet long by 25 feet broad.'
Harpers Weekly describes Glen Mhor as being 'three extensive blocks built in the form of a triangle, the right wing containing the large malt barns, kiln and granary, which later 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 decoration or grand about the appearance of the buildings; nevertheless they are most solidly constructed and well arranged for carrying on the world efficiently.'
The distillery is noted to have 'the tun-room, 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.'
The original warehouse formed the south wall of the site and was 315 feet in length, able to store 150,000 gallons of whisky.
18th June 1894
The owners of Glen Mhor take out fire insurance to protect them from the scourge of any distillery. The document is available to view in our Document Section.
7th September 1894
Glen Mhor distillery, along with other breweries and distilleries in the area, is advertising the availability of draff for sale suggesting that production had begun.
8th December 1894
Production begins officially - this date is now disputed due to the above entry.
18th December 1894
Mr Robert Robertson officially leaves his role as Assistant Brewer at the Mortlach Distillery to take up his role as Head Brewer at Glenmore in Inverness, aka Glen Mhor. He would remain in this role, on-site, until his passing in 1937.
An application is made to extend the solitary warehouse on the distillery site from 200ft to 315ft. Also included in the application, is a small warehouse near Telford Street measuring 50ftx25ft.
22nd October 1895
An advert for a Glen Mhor Stillman vacancy appears in the local press.
26th December 1895
The warehouse expansion is approved by the Inverness Dean Guild.
4th January 1896
Charles W. Mackinlay dies suddenly at a young age and James Mackinlay takes his eldest son, Charles Mackinlay, into partnership with a Thomas Dewar. We look further into this tragic event.
Barley from Muirtown, near Inverness, is being used at the distillery.
Electric lighting is introduced at the distillery, powered by a nearby canal turbine.
17th November 1896
Plans are drawn up by Inverness based Ross & MacBeth, to add more warehousing to Glen Mhor. These plans are currently lost and appear on our Wanted page. It is our belief these plans added 2 new warehouses, 132 feet in length and 32 feet in width, that would form the template for future additions.
The cost of building houses and a bonded warehouse is noted to be £1700. This new warehouse joins onto the northern side of the existing warehouse and was around half its length, backing onto the football ground behind.
18th August 1897
Robert Robertson of Glen Mhor, marries Kate Ann Eccles, with the distillery workers presenting him with a gift the day before.
Mackinlay & Birnie publish a booklet entitled Pictures of Inverness, with a peep into Glen Mhor Distillery, by Alfred Barnard.
The entire production for this season is sold-out in advance to blenders and trade contracts.
A supplement is published in The Distiller's and Brewers' and Trade News, where John Birnie essentially gives a distillery tour and discusses some of the forthcoming alterations at Glen Mhor.
16th May 1898
Plans are submitted to the Dean Guild for a series of alternations across the distillery site.
20th October 1898
Mackinlay & Birnie petition the council on this day with their plans to build new warehouses on the distillery site.
24th October 1898
Representatives of Mackinlay & Birnie appear in the Inverness Guild Court, to debate the contested building of new warehouses on the eastern edge of the distillery site. These plans are contested by Sir Kenneth Matheson, the 2nd Baronet of Lochalsh (owner of the land that will border on the warehouses), plus other neighbouring firms.
14th November 1898
Warehouse plans are submitted for approval under the title Additions to Glenmore Distillery for Mackinlay & Birnie.
19th November 1898
Planning for a duty-free warehouse in Telford Street was approved with a projected cost of £573 and announced in the local press.
16th May 1904
The distillery grounds are flooded but the buildings escape damage, we've uncovered further details on the canal accident that caused mayhem in Muirtown and drew crowds thereafter.
12th September 1904
An application to the Dean Guild to extend the existing Workmen's Houses is approved.
The firm is incorporated as Mackinlay & Birnie. John Walker & Sons acquire a 40% interest in Glen Albyn distillery.
25th April 1906
The suggested date of an indulgence granted by Customs & Excise - this would relate to production equipment. The date was highlighted on a much later record.
Ernest Shackleton ships bottles of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt to the South Pole for his expedition. These are later discovered over a century later and scientifically examined confirming the source as Glen Mhor.
9th March 1909
Glen Mhor features in an Inverness listing of companies supporting its employees who wish to train for the Territorial Forces.
Glen Mhor only operates at a third of capacity during the winter months.
The distillery is idle for 5 months during the summer.
John Birnie, co-founder and distiller of Glen Mhor, becomes Provost of Inverness for 6 years. In total, he would serve 16 years on the town council. He also served as treasurer and as the magistrate for 3 years.
Amazingly, John Birnie also found the time to become the President of the Malt Distillers' Association of Scotland until 1912.
A new date for the introduction of the new and larger mash tun is suggested in the Distilleries of Great Britain and Ireland article - published in 1924.
4th May 1914
The Dean Guild approves plans to add four new warehouse to existing stock, completing the warehousing on site that we know numbered nine in total.
Glen Mhor is one of only five distilleries requisitioned by the government during World War I. The site is occupied by the United States Navy.
Glen Mhor was not only providing casks to Mackinlays in Leith, but also Johnnie Walker and Slate Rodgers Co. both based in Glasgow. Casks were also sent to Black & Ferguson in Aberdeen and also in Leith, A. Baillie & Co, MacDonald & Muir and Ford & Sons.
Maturing whisky from Glen Albyn, is kept at Glen Mhor during the US navy occupation until 1919. The stills at Glen Mhor also fall silent as barley records in our Documentation section confirm. Works starts to prepare the site for the naval base conversion in June.
27 November 1917
The first intake of men arrived from the US Navy. 3000 barrels of whisky are moved from Glen Albyn to Glen Mhor for safekeeping.
3rd January 1918
Kate Ann Eccles, wife of distillery manager Robert Robertson, passes away on site aged just 42. The family would live at Glen Albyn House on Telford Street however her gravestone confirms she died at 'GlenMhor Distillery'.
9th February 1918
The military base comes online and starts producing mines. The US National ensign is hoisted for the first time.
17th September 1918
The US Navy base is completely demobilised and turned over to a UK naval officer at 10am.
10th January 1919
Distilleries across Scotland are allowed to commence production. Glen Mhor is delayed possibly due to the previous occupants.
1st March 1919
Glen Mhor restarts production.
Glen Mhor distillery takes over Glen Albyn distillery. Both will eventually run in tandem. This means that the mooted plans for expanding Glen Mhor will be more restrained.
5th July 1920
Caledonian FC receive approval for their new grandstand, the plans of which (from June 1920) give us a snapshot of the layout of Glen Mhor at this time.
Neil M. Gunn becomes the Exciseman at Glen Mhor.
14th November 1924
An article on Glen Mhor is published as part of the Distilleries of Scotland series.
A third still installed along with a larger mash tun and two new washbacks¹. Through our research, we've identified this previously unknown still and its size. A gas engine was possibly installed around this time to provide 19hp and to supplement the water turbine.
The quayside access becomes increasingly used by both Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. Receiving peat from Orkney, barley is also delivered and whisky is sent by canal to Glasgow. The use of the waterway continued until the arrival of the Second World War.
5th September 1932
Glen Mhor is one of seventy-eight distilleries to close due to increase excise duty costs. This results in many seasonal employees becoming out of work as the usual number of 30 employed reduces to just 2.
15th October 1934
Glen Mhor begins distilling for the season and announces it will be using more Scottish barley in doing so.
2nd July 1936
Application as part of Glen Mhor's silent season to test the worms for a leak, by blanking the tailpipe. You can see the full entry here.
3rd July 1936
An enhancement to the Spirit Safe is recorded that makes the distiller's job much easier.
22nd July 1936
A request to replace piping between the Feints Charger and No.2 Low Wines Still.
21st October 1936
A problem with the wash still anti-collapse value prompts a risky decision.
27th April 1937
A decline in volume leads to the discovery of a leaky still.
22nd June 1937
Silent season arrives at the distillery and a new set of requests for internal repairs.
Neil M. Gunn leaves his role as Exciseman to pursue his ambition of becoming a full-time writer.
15th July 1937
A request to repair the spent Lees Receiver number 2, reveals a siphon device meant to increase the lifestyle of the stills.
12th October 1937
Robert Robertson passes away at Glenalbyn House on Telford Street. He had been the distillery manager of Glen Mhor for 43 years (since its foundation) and prior to this had been at Mortlach Distillery. He was 72 years old and secretary of Messrs Mackinlays and Birnie.
13th October 1937
A request for the spirit stores to be left open at both Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor, reveals a previously unknown upgrade.
17th January 1938
A leak is identified, and work takes place to correct the issue.
26th January 1938
The new manager at Glen Mhor wishes to ascertain the status of the original Low Wines Still which was mothballed when the new still was installed in the 1920s.
9th June 1938
Nothing much to see as silent season marks the arrives of the routine maintenance request.
23rd November 1938
The newer of the 3 stills requires some urgent attention.
12th December 1938
An accident in the washback area, provides a vital clue.
William Birnie publishes his first statistical analysis of Scotch production, spending up to 4 months annually working on a labour of love that would continue into the early 1970s.
14th April 1939
Another sizeable accident leads to all manner of investigation and new discoveries.
16th April 1939
A simple request about mashing on a Sunday, underlines the importance of the Caledonian Canal as the water source for the distillery.
24th May 1939
A routine silent season request opens the door for future entries and work in the log.
25th May 1939
Proposed work on the No.2 Low Wines Still gives us some valuable insight.
28th June 1939
An entry, confirming the defective copper plates on the No.2 Low Wines Still have been successfully replaced.
29th June 1939
A sketch of all things! Plus a request for an indulgence when it comes to the original Low Wines Still.
7th July 1939
The aforementioned Low Wines indulgence work is assessed and documented as per the terms of the agreement.
27th March 1940
Customs and Excise grant an indulgence around rule 162, something that's being seen on a regular basis now.
4th April 1940
A fascinating entry, revealing Glen Mhor's estimated versus actual output for the year and the implications of the war.
23rd April 1941
Just over a year on from an indulgence request around rule 162, the same request appears once again.
28th August 1941
The business of selling casks continues despite the war restrictions and we are given some insight into this practice and what happens when things don't go according to plan.
26th June 1942
The Glen Mhor exciseman is promptly called to assist with a fire at Glen Albyn distillery and break the warehouse lock.
15th September 1942
Even with the war raging and the threat of closure, work was still ongoing to improve conditions at Glen Mhor, as this enhancement to the Spirit Safe proves.
25th February 1943
A remarkable entry involving Glen Albyn and a new brief distillate at Glen Mhor.
26th March 1943
Glen Mhor falls silent due to World War 2 restrictions making it one of the last distilleries to close.
22nd April 1943
A Customs & Excise entry that reveals working conditions and temporary arrangements during the war on site.
24th April 1943
A report on the issue of maintaining casks and their movement as sales continue.
15th May 1943
Excess production accounted for by Customs & Excise, plus a one-off distillation at Glen Mhor using up left over feints.
8th November 1944
Glen Mhor is among the 32 distilleries given permission to restart distilling in the New Year.
23rd February 1946
John 'Jack' Birnie passes away after a short illness. The co-founder and former distiller at Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor, was the managing director of Mackinlay's & Birnie Limited. He was 92 at the time of his death and noted to be 'the oldest distiller in Scotland'.
A new dressing plan built by George Porteous & Sons, is installed. 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 capacity is more than doubled without any extra building - this suggests that one of the unused malting floors was adapted for grain storage.
The ending of floor malting on-site and the malting floor being prepared for a Saladin Box.
The capacity of the Kiln is more than trebled. Two conical Steeps (by George Porteous & Sons) are also installed.
17th October 1949
The Saladin Box comes online at Glen Mhor, making it the first malt distillery to utilise the technology. The Box has 60-foot long concrete walls, 8-feet apart and 6-feet high.
5th November 1949
Footage has emerged of a football match at Telford Street Park, clearly featuring the Glen Mhor warehouses that made up the so-called distillery end by fans.
18th November 1949
The Saladin plant is officially opened with the Company Chairman and Directors in attendance for a special dinner with the Member of Parliament for Inverness-shire and his Wife, Sir Murdoch and Lady Macdonald, together with the Provost of Inverness and his Wife, Mr and Mrs Grigor.
19th November 1949
Staff and their friends were entertained to a Dinner Party in the Cumming's Hotel. Mr William Birnie, Managing Director, informed the gathering that it was a dual function, first to commemorate the opening of the Saladin Plant at Glen Mhor distillery, and secondly, to commemorate the centenary of Glen Albyn Distillery.
25th April 1952
William Birnie represents the Scotch Whisky Association when it comes to the debate over how young whisky should be for export.
In an unpublished interview, William Birnie confirms that in total, 26 men are employed across both Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn.
Electric motors are introduced to take over the powering of the malt mill, malt elevator and mashtun, which were previously powered by the water turbine.
8th March 1954
A bill of sale confirms the selling of 10 casks of Glen Mhor to an individual in Montrose and gives us insight into the everyday business of filling orders
10th January 1955
Another bill of sale for 20 casks for the Montrose based bottler is recorded.
Glen Mhor is supplying Archibald, Campbell, Hope & King of Elgin with stock for their Campbell's blend.
13th February 1956
A parcel of Glen Mhor casks are bonded in Montrose - a increasingly popular destination for the Highland whisky.
Switchers for the washbacks, are no longer powered by water, as the turbine is retired.
Scottish barley is now delivered by lorry to the distillery.
The Distillers Company Limited acquires a stake in the Company of Mackinlay's and Birnie Ltd. This is rumoured to be around 46%.
Charles Mackinlay & Co. are purchased by Scottish Newcastle Breweries.
31st January 1963
Annual statistics gathered by William Birnie are highlighted in the press, showing the shift in scotch consumption from the UK, to a more international audience.
All the stills switched to steam heating, but were still fired by a coal-stoked furnace. At this time, Glen Mhor (and Glen Albyn) were one of the first to distilleries to adopt this innovation.
18th October 1964
Glen Mhor is mentioned in a Miami Herald article as a distillery worth touring and also an example of the mysteries of Scotch - two distilleries almost side by side with the same inputs, yet two very different styles of whisky.
12th December 1968
The first of a series of adverts appears that confirms Glen Mhor is using Golden Promise barley.
William Birnie laments that no one in the industry is listening to his statical analysis that too much Scotch Whisky is being produced and distilleries will have to close.
The distillery offers tours, weekdays 10am to noon and 2 to 4pm. Making it one of the first to do so.
26th January 1971
Sales of Glen Mhor are booming in Italy, hence why 100 Italian salesmen arrive at the distillery and have their annual conference in Aviemore.
15th January 1972
William Birnie features in an article entitled Breaking Point for Whisky? That might explain why the Mackinlay and Birnie families decided to get out of the distilling business later that year.
The Distillers Company make a successful offer for Mackinlay & Birnie, already owning John Walker & Sons, who had a 43.5% stake in the firm. 10.9% was owned by Mackinlay McPherson Ltd (Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd.). With the remaining split between 11 members of the Birnie family and 14 members of the Mackinlay family. The offer of £765,000 (equivalent to £8.8 million in 2021) is accepted, citing the difficulties of recent years; 'the number of M&B's fillings has decreased due to greater integration within the industry and it is felt that this trend would continue.' DCL in comparison, badly needed Highland whiskies to supplement its blending stock.
Glen Mhor is listed in by Ross Wilson, as accepting visitors from mid-June to mid-September between 9.30am - 4.30pm. As the book was published in this year, the information may have been gathered the previous year, but in fairness, the owners are listed as D.C.L.
New owners, DCL, announce that the Glen Mhor 6 year old and 10 year old expressions, will cease being bottled in December 1973. Glen Mhor will now be for blending only, although independent bottlings are encouraged.
William Birnie, son of John Birnie and himself a former owner, passes away, aged 85. In the 1960s, he had predicted the overproduction of the Scotch whisky industry.
The distillery is using 75 tons of barley per week.
Head brewer, Angus Mackay, is featured in several American articles quoting the virtues of Glen Mhor as a whisky and the qualities that make it unique.
A single malt Glen Mhor is introduced to the market as an 8 year old by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail.
19th September 1980
Saladin Box and onsite malting closes. Malt is instead, delivered by truck from central maltsters due to the high costs of running the boxes. Barley type is suggested as being Golden Promise and Triumph, both peated.
Short-time working is introduced at the distillery to reduce costs and output. This stays in effect for 2 years.
16th February 1983
DCL announces a list of distilleries to close across Scotland (see our newspaper section) with Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor both closing with a combined loss of 22 jobs.
8th March 1983
The last distillation is run. This allows 12 weeks notice for closure.
31st May 1983
The distillery closes.
6th August 1985
Local residents protest about the development plans for the Glen Mhor site.
The distillery is dismantled.
Charles Mackinlay & Co. are acquired by Invergordon Distillers Ltd.
10th January 1986
Head warehouse operator, Mr D.J. MacDonald, receives a long service award from Scottish Malt Distillers.
Philip Morrice visits the site of Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn for his 1987 Alfred Barnard book, just prior to demolition.
Glen Mhor is demolished.
Invergordon Distillers and thus Charles Mackinlay & Co., are acquired by Whyte & Mackay.
Three cases of Shackleton whisky were discovered beneath Shackleton's base camp at Cape Royds frozen in ice, containing 11 bottles in total. This whisky is scientifically examined and confirmed to be from Glen Mhor.
28th March 2011
Ex-employee Rodney Burtt, writes to the Institute of Brewing & Distilling about his unpublished book about his time at Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn. Originally entitled Highland Gold, this was renamed in 1986, Spirits Within. So far, it remains lost and unpublished.
The Mackinlay's Shackleton whisky recreation is released in an edition of 50,000 bottles, with more editions set to follow. Famously, Whyte & Mackay Master Blender, Richard Paterson was challenged with the recreation. His eureka moment when trying to rebuild the whisky was to add a cask of 1983 Glen Mhor - a very rare vintage because the distillery hardly produced in its last year of existence. The whole concept is well documented in this New York Times article.
Six casks of Glen Mhor are noted to be maturing at Royal Lochnagar distillery, which is part of the Diageo group and formerly DCL, which owned Glen Mhor.
15 August 2017
J. Val Ritchie, formerly of Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn distilleries, passes away aged 86.
8th March 2023
A Glen Mhor tasting is held in Edinburgh to remember the distillery on the anniversary of the last spirit coming off the stills 40 years prior.
¹ Some reports suggest that the mashtun and washbacks were installed prior to the first World War and the still was delayed until 1925.
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