Malt of the Moment
Glenury Royal is as the name suggests an unusual distillery with a distinctive heritage. The tale starts back in the early 1820’s when the arrival of the Excise Act prompted...
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Glenury Royal is as the name suggests an unusual distillery with a distinctive heritage. The tale starts back in the early 1820’s when the arrival of the Excise Act prompted many businessmen and illegal distillers to start new legal enterprises in the realm of the Scotch whisky industry. Inspired by promise of new found riches and producing his own whisky, Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, a local landowner and military officer, set out to establish his own whisky.
As an individual, Captain Barclay enjoyed a sense of celebrity status having versed himself in the art of wagers and suffering the highs and lows of such gentlemanly bets. His most famous act was a wager of 1000 guineas to walk 1000 miles in a thousand hours. The Royal connection comes about by an alleged link to the Royal court of King William IV at the time that Captain Barclay enjoyed and as the local Member of Parliament he would have spent time in London. Needless to say it was a rare honour, only granted to a handful of distilleries who proudly still boast their seal of approval. Rumour has it that the King tried the whisky initially and liked it so much became a repeat customer and this would have paved the way for such a celebrated prefix.
The initial firm of Barclay-McDonald and Company ran the distillery until 1852 and endured several catastrophic events during its initial period. A fire in 1825 caused widespread damage at the distillery, destroying the kiln and numerous other parts at Glenury Royal. Tragedy struck again with the death of a worker on the site, but apart from these regrettable events, Glenury Royal seems to have gone about its business in reasonable fashion. Captain Barclay left this earth in 1853 and shortly afterwards the distillery was sold at auction to a William Ritchie, who heralded from Glasgow and ran the distillery until the late 1880’s. In 1890 he formed a limited company named after himself and this continued to own the distillery until 1938, with a ten-year closure towards the end of his reign.
Glenury Royal was purchased by the Joseph Hobbs in 1938 via a subsidiary firm, Train & McIntyre, that was ultimately owned by the National Distillers of America. This company were purchasing distilleries in the region and could also count Glenesk amongst its arsenal. By 1953 ownership had been transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers, who in the 1960’s set about rebuilding the distillery and closed the maltings in 1968. The work involved doubling the number of stills to 4 and then licensing the output to John Gillon & Company. This name will adorn some of the Glenury Royal bottlings you may see for sale online.
Like so many distilleries in this Easterly Highland region, when the fall in demand for whisky in the early 1980’s materialised, the problem of over production had to be addressed. For Glenury Royal sadly its monarchy links were not enough to save it from the corporate cull. A relatively small, traditional distillery without too much of a single malt presence was closed sometime between 1984 and 1985. With no perspective buyers showing interest, the last casks from the distillery were removed in 1987 and the land was sold for residential development. Some traditional buildings were converted, so parts of Glenury Royal remain in existence today and the whole site is commemorated by a plaque that is mounted on the formerly towering chimney base that dominates pictures of the distillery during its era of production.
In whisky terms Glenury Royal is a very enjoyable whisky and one that isn’t forceful or heavy with its flavours. It offers a lightness and air of grace, with unusual mineral characteristics making for a very satisfying dram. Diageo have released a couple of well-aged bottlings with a 2005 release being 36 years of age and dating from 1968 however it is overpriced and not the best Glenury Royal that you can seek out. Many of the independent bottlers have at some stage released casks with Gordon & MacPhail recently bottling a cask from 1984. It is still possible to track down such bottlings and experience a fine Highland whisky.