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.
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.
26th December 1895
The warehouse expansion is approved by the Inverness Dean Guild.
Charles W. Mackinlay dies at a young age and James Mackinlay takes his eldest son, Charles Mackinlay, into partnership with a Thomas Dewar.
Barley from Muirtown, near Inverness, is being used at the distillery.
Electric lighting is introduced at the distillery, powered by a nearby canal turbine.
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.
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.
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.
Planning for a duty-free warehouse in Telford Street was approved with a projected cost of £573.
16th May 1904
The distillery grounds are flooded but the buildings escape damage.
The firm is incorporated as Mackinlay & Birnie. John Walker & Sons acquire a 40% interest in Glen Albyn distillery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Neil M. Gunn leaves his role as Exciseman to pursue his ambition of becoming a full-time writer.
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.
Glen Mhor falls silent due to World War 2 restrictions.
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.
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.
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.
Glen Mhor is supplying Archibald, Campbell, Hope & King of Elgin with stock for their Campbell's blend.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A single malt Glen Mhor is introduced to the market as an 8 year old by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail.
Saladin Box 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.
The distillery is dismantled.
10th January 1986
Head warehouse operator, Mr D.J. MacDonald, receives a long service award from Scottish Malt Distillers.
Glen Mhor is demolished.
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.
¹ Some reports suggest that the mashtun and washbacks were installed prior to the first World War and the still was delayed until 1925.