Malt of the Moment
Glenugie was one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries dating back to the early 1830’s, before it was closed in 1983 and subsequently demolished. It’s location in the Eastern Highland region is...
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Glenugie was one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries dating back to the early 1830’s, before it was closed in 1983 and subsequently demolished. It’s location in the Eastern Highland region is one that bore the brunt of the early 80’s corporate theme of closing aging distilleries, as an antidote to the fall in whisky demand and overproduction from the industry as a whole. Whisky from Glenugie is amongst some of the rarest nowadays and is in great demand from collectors and enthusiasts.
The distillery itself was situated near the town of Peterhead and was a site used for multiple purposes initially including brewing as well as distilling. Initially the distillery was called Invernettie and was established by Donald, McLeod & Co before having to switch to brewing after a period of 6 years. For the next 4 decades, Glenugie focused on brewing until it was rebuilt by new owners, Scottish Highland Distillers, in 1875 and whisky was the principle focus once more. Sadly, the optimism was dispersed when Scottish Highland Distillers when bankrupt in 1879, but at least the purpose of the site had now been established. For Glenugie changes in owners were to become commonplace with a series of arrivals that would set the revolving doors at any office into overdrive. In essence this was one of the seeds of Glenugie’s failure to prosper as its whisky has always been held in high regard. The majority of its output, from its modest pair of stills, was destined for the blended market.
Details about Glenugie are few and far between, almost as elusive as single malt bottlings themselves. As with most historical cases, we can rely on the work of Alfred Barnard and his pilgrimage across Scotland visiting its distilleries in the mid-1880’s. He commented on the recent refurbishment of the site, its costal location and the main buildings surrounding a traditional square. While an upsurge in demand for its whisky was set to translate into new warehouses and a maltings on the site. The still house arrangements were deemed the most complete and also had the seal of approval from Her Majesty’s Inspectors as a standard that many should aspire to.
With the arrival of the First World War, Glenugie closed and did not reopen again due to various economic factors until 1923, but this was only a brief sortie into the realm of production, as by 1925 the site had closed down once more. Production did not resume until 1937, when new owners were in place and through the conveyor belt of corporations and parent companies, it ended up in the hands of British brewer Whitbread. However, prior to this, Glenugie was part of the Long John Distillers Group and in the 1950’s and received considerable investment. This included a complete refurbishment with 2 new stills on site and the removal of the worm tubs in favour of modern day condensers. Production was doubled for the purpose of supporting the Long John blends but such optimism was short-lived.
When end when it arrived in 1983, was a simple decision given Glenugie’s aging status, small output and a lack of a single malt presence. The site was sold to 2 North Sea Oil companies who demolished the various buildings and used the land for their own purposes. By the early 1990’s almost every trace of Glenugie was gone.
Glenugie sadly is no more, but its whisky remains a lasting tribute although it has been rarely bottled in recent times. The most widely seen release was from the current brand owner, Chivas, and was a 30-year-old Glenugie bottled under the banner of Deoch an Doras in 2011. Apart from this official bottling only Gordon & MacPhail or Signatory have bottled in recent memory. If Glenugie still exists in cask form, then it’s very likely to be only a tiny amount nowadays.