E-pistle #18/17 – Glenlochy Distillery Profile

By Lawrence Graham, Canada

Operational: 4th April, 1901 (Established in 1898).
Closed: 1983
Region: Highland
Last Operational Owner: SMD, a subsidiary of DCL.
Current Owner: Lochaber Housing Association
Address: North Road, Inverlochy, Fort William, Inverness-shire

The original meaning of the name Glen loch dae is “Glen of the Dark Goddess” and the distillery was founded by David McAndie of the inspirationally named Glenlochy-Fort William Distillery Company Limited in 1898 with registered offices at 51 Church Street, Inverness and Hugh M. Graham held the position of Secretary (source: Harper’s Directory 1914). The distillery was built in the shadow of the mountain Ben Nevis. For a brief decade Fort William could claim three distilleries, Glenlochy, Ben Nevis and the Nevis Distillery. It was not to last and now only the Ben Nevis distillery, owned by Nikka of Japan, is the last surviving Fort William distillery.

The Glenlochy water source was the River Nevis which today provides quite good day fishing for salmon and sea trout when in spate using fly and worm. However spinning and float fishing are not allowed but fishing for brown trout is allowed but only above the lower falls at Polldubh as migratory fish cannot run beyond the falls and no permit is required above that point. The River Nevis is about 1/2 mile from the town centre and the fishing is controlled by the Fort William Angling Club.
The distillery was silent during World War I, the period from 1919-1924 and 1926-1937.

During its short life the distillery endured a myriad of owners/licensees and in the period between 1934-’37 Thomas Leslie Rankin, motor hirer, used the distillery as a base for his business. In 1937 the distillery was purchased by Train & MacIntyre Limited (included in the shareholders was Joseph Hobbs, the colorful Canadian millionaire who also owned nearby Ben Nevis Distillery) and in 1938 was transferred to its subsidiary Associated Scottish Distillers Limited.

In 1953 the Distillers Company Limited purchased the assets of Train & MacIntyre Limited from its American owners, National Distillers Products Corporation and Glenlochy distillery was transferred to the Scottish Malt Distillers (a subsidiary of the Distillers Company Limited). Also included in the sale were Glenesk, Benromach, Glenury Royal and the Company of Train & MacIntyre was wound up in 1960. In 1968, Glenlochy was once again closed along with Oban and Glengarioch distilleries

The distillery had one wash still and one spirit still and was extensively modernized during in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  In May 1983 Glenlochy along with Banff, Brora, Dallas Dhu, Glen Albyn, Glen Mohr, Knockdhu, North Port and St. Magdalene were closed and the equipment was quickly removed. 

In April 1986 an application to demolish was made to the Lochaber District Council which was rejected. The building and 3.5 acre site fell into decay and finally much of the warehouse and building were demolished. The pagoda and maltings remain and in 1992 were sold to West Coast Inns. The most common example of the whisky today is the bottling known as the “Rare Malts” but even the this offering has now expired except in the realm of the collector. The surviving distillery buildings are in the process of being converted into flats for sale and rent, a better fate than being turned into a shopping complex I suspect.

Sources; The Scottish Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo; Scotch Missed, the Lost Distilleries of Scotland by Brian Townsend; A Century of Whisky by Gavin Smith; The Scotch Whisky Industry Record by H Charles Criag.