Scotland: Lowlands Region
Bladnoch is one of the three whisky distilleries featured in our photobook on the Lowland distilleries!
Bladnoch Distillery today – a warm and friendly place with a central vibrant role in community, its charming slate-roofed stone buildings clustered alongside the river that is its water source – paints an idyllic picture.
It’s a far cry from the distillery’s state of affairs in the early 1990s
In the early 1990s, then owners, United Distillers, gave up on Bladnoch, closing it down and gutting it to prevent further operations.
In fact, so determined were United Distillers that Bladnoch should never operate as a distillery again that they made this a condition of the sale when Raymond Armstrong bought the property in 1994. Armstrong planned to develop the land as holiday accommodation in addition to using it as his personal holiday home.
But, the community had other ideas
Local pressure to restore Bladnoch to a working distillery, combined with Armstrong’s own willingness to do so, led to negotiations with United Distillers to change the conditions of sale. The original clause was revoked and replaced, allowing Bladnoch to begin whisky production once more, albeit at a limit of 100 000 litres of spirit per year.
This sounds like a generous amount, and to an extent it is. It allows Bladnoch to operate as a boutique distillery and produce enough to satisfy its fans. But, when you consider the fact that Bladnoch’s full production capacity is somewhere closer to 1.3 million litres per year, United Distillers’ limiting clause sounds a bit mean.
Before production… restoration!
Raymond Armstrong may have been given permission to distill whisky, but before even one litre of “the spirit of the Lowlands” could start flowing, he had a large and daunting restoration project on his hands.
Apart from the four stills and the washbacks, United Distillers had removed everything else. Returning the distillery to working order took a good few years, with production eventually starting in December 2000.
Given that whisky takes some time to age, this late start means that customers have wait patiently until at least 2010 for the first ten year old, not to mention much longer for some more mature bottlings. To slake thirsts in the meantime, Bladnoch has bottled some younger whiskies, and has also been selling off stocks produced during the distillery’s heyday.
If you’re curious to taste any of these bottlings, you can buy Bladnoch whisky online here.
The Irish Connection
Bladnoch may be Scotland’s most southerly distillery, but there’s a distinct Irish thread running through the distillery’s history.
The area in which the distillery is located lies geographically closer to Ireland than to central Scotland, and the residents of this part of Scotland are in fact referred to as the Galloway Irish in deference to their heritage.
Like Auchentoshan Distillery, which is also located on the west of Scotland, Bladnoch used to follow the Irish tradition of triple distilled whisky, and the distillery was even owned by the Royal Irish Distillers of Belfast between 1911 and 1937, prior to its first closure. When the distillery shut down in 1938, the three stills were sold off – two are purportedly still in use by Absolut Vodka in Sweden, while the third is now located in the Wine And Spirit Museum in Stockholm in Sweden. When Bladnoch reopened in 1956, four new stills were introduced (two pairs of wash and spirit stills).
Bladnoch’s current owner, Raymond Armstrong, is himself Irish. Interestingly, he was raised in a staunchly Calvinistic household, in which drinking was seen as a sin. Thank goodness he changed his mind!
Read our blog post about our visit to Bladnoch Distillery for some more information.
At A Glance: Bladnoch Whisky Tasting Notes
If this whets your appetite, buy a bottle of Bladnoch whisky online here.
Bladnoch Distillery Contact Details
Address: Bladnoch, Wigtown, Wigtownshire, Scotland, DG8 9AB
Tel: +44 (0)1988 40 2605
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