The distillery which later would be renamed Brora was initially called Clynelish and was founded in 1819 by the Marquis of Stafford, later the first Duke of Sunderland. The marquis was one of the architects behind the ‘clearances’ during which tens of thousands of tenants were evicted from their highland farms. The land was needed for sheep farming to supply the booming wool industry. Many of the evicted tenants moved out to the coastal areas and these families had a hard time making their living and many of them soon started to illegally distil whisky to boost their income. In an attempt to stem this spreading illegal activity, the marquis built the Clynelish distillery and licensed it so that the coastal farmers would have a legal market for their grain.
After a few changes of licensees the distillery was finally sold in 1896 to a Glasgow-based blending company named James Ainslie & Co. When the blending company went bankrupt in 1912 the distillery was acquired by a company jointly owned by a Frenchman named John Risk and the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL). Risk sold his share to DCL in 1925.
In 1967 a new distillery was built alongside the original distillery. The new distillery was named Clynelish B and the original distillery was called Clynelish A. Clynelish A was closed in 1968 but was reopened shortly afterwards because of an increased demand for whisky by the blending industry. The ‘new’ whisky was produced much smokier than its predecessor. Because of the dissimilarities of the whiskies from Clynelish A and B Customs and Excise demanded that the distilleries should be run as separate entities. As a result the old distillery, Clynelish A, was closed and reopened in 1975 under the name of Brora Distillery. Brora Distillery was closed in 1983 due to the recession and today its buildings are used as warehouses and as a visitor centre for its still active sister –the Clynelish Distillery.
Clynelish Distillery is currently owned by Diageo and their single malt whisky is available in an official bottling as a 14 year old and in the Rare Malts series as a 23 year old. The distillery receives many visitors during the summer due to its close proximity to popular golf courses and loch and river game fishing. Much of the whisky produced at Clynelish is used in the Johnnie Walker Gold Blend 18 year old.
Production at Clynelish
Clynelish draw their water from the Clynemilton Burn. It was formerly claimed that the water ran over a gold vein which added a unique character to the water. The barley is exclusively grown in Scotland and is lightly smoked to 4 ppm at Glen Ord Maltings. The recently installed mash tun holds 12.5 tons and is made from stainless steel. They use eight washbacks which were all built in 1967. The six stills all have short wide necks and used to be heated with coal until the mid 1960s when thay were converted to being internally steam heated.
The whisky is filled into sherry and bourbon casks and the single malt whisky casks are stored in three on site dunnage warehouses whereas the whisky intended for the blended industry is shipped to Diageo’s central storage facilities in Scotland. Bottling is done in Leven, Fife.
Phone: +44 (0)1408 621444
Distillery Manager: Bob Robertson
Visitors: The visitor centre is open Easter-September Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, October Monday-Friday 11am.4pm. Visits may be arranged between November and Easter after advance booking.
Guided tours begin on the hour; admission is £4 and is refundable upon purchase in the gift shop. There is no restaurant or café on site but several restaurants may be found in the nearby town of Brora.
Additional visiting info: contact Liz.Miller@diageo.com