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Bladnoch distillery

One of only a handful of operating Lowland distilleries Bladnoch has alas spent a considerable portion of it’s life closed, inactive or producing at only a percentage of capacity. Originally founded by John and Thomas McClelland (sometimes spelled McLelland) in 1817 and remained in the family and in operation until 1905 when production ceased (this may relate to the Pattison whisky crisis, or simply due to the extremely dated nature of the distillery). In 1911 T. & A. McLelland Ltd. was liquidated. Dunville & Co. Ltd paid for £10,775 noting that "The Bladnoch Distillery itself has not been worked for about 6 years. It was in the McClelland family since 1818 and must be one of the oldest in Scotland. The main buildings and warehouses are good and substantial but the plant was obsolete and is being entirely renewed partly by new and partly by purchase of plant from Distilleries in the Highlands that have failed". Bladnoch then ran intermittently until 1937 when Dunville & Co was wound up, thereafter the distillery was dismantled equipment was shipped to Sweden. One is now located in the Wine And Spirit Museum in Stockholm, according to “Whisky distilled” two were used at some point by Absolut Vodka though I can find no other reference to this.

Bladnoch reopened in 1956, revived by A.B. Grant & Co. and then Ian Fisher and McGowan & Cameron. Four new stills were introduced (two pairs of wash and spirit stills) and spirit again began to flow, the distillery changed hands repeatedly before finally being mothballed in 1993 by United Distillers. Again the distillery was gutted, only the stills and washbacks were left intact.

Irishman Raymond Armstrong managed to buy Bladnoch from United Distillers (the predecessors of Diageo) in 1994, originally with no intention of resuming production. Bladnoch was given respite in 2000 when Armstrong reached an agreement with United Distillers to resume distillation albeit limited to 100,000 litres per year, a minuscule fraction of the 1,300,000 litres capacity that Bladnoch produced annually in the 1980s. Although the stipulation was rescinded later Bladnoch ceased production a mere 9 years later in 2009 and was put into liquidation in 2014.

Happily though that was not the last spirit to flow from Bladnoch as it caught the eye of Australian entrepreneur David Prior. Having sold off a successful Yoghurt business and originally intending to establish a new distillery in Fife when he heard about the nearly 200 year old distillery offering 55 acres of land, 11 warehouses and around 2,500 casks. Alas much of the distilleries equipment turned out to be worth little more than scrap, the low-wine still was in places "no thicker than a coke can", many of the casks were spent or simply of poor quality and the lade (channel through which the distilleries water supply flowed) hadn’t been cleared out for a decade. In the end Ian Macmillan notes that what could be saved would not fill the "back of a matchbox". In spite of this challenge by 2017, less than 2 years after Ian Macmillan came on spirit was flowing from Bladnoch once again just in time for the distilleries 200 year anniversary.

Bladnoch factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Bladnoch blad*noch Lowlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1817 - Present Malt Bladnoch Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Ian Macmillan Ian Macmillan David Prior

Bladnoch Timeline:

1817: Bladnoch far distillery is founded by John and Thomas McClelland

1825: The distillery is licensed for the first time

1878: Distillery is refurbished by Charlie McLelland, son of John McLelland

1905: Production stopped

1911: Dunville & Co. Ltd paid for £10,775 T. & A. McLelland Ltd

1937: Dunville & Co. Ltd is liquidated the distillery is dismantled and it's equipment shipped to Sweden

1956: Revived by A.B. Grant & Co. in the guise of Bladnoch Distillery Ltd.

1964: Bladnoch Distillery Ltd. is acquired by Ian Fisher

1966: A further two stills are added to the distillery bringing the total up to four

1973: Bladnoch was bought by Inver House in 1973

1983: Arthur Bell & Sons take over the distillery

1985: Guiness Group buys Arthur Bell & Sons

1989: Arthur Bell & Sons become part of the United Distillers subsidiary

1988: A visitor centre is established

1993: United Distillers mothballs Bladnoch

1994: The Irishman Raymond Armstrong buys Bladnoch in October

2000: In December 2000 the first spirit of the new millennium flowed from the stills at Bladnoch

2009: Production ceases again

2014: Raymond Armstrong puts Bladnoch into administration

2015: Purchased by Australian entrepreneur David Prior and heavily refurbished

2017: Production begins again

Useful Bladnoch links:

Bladnoch at ScotchWhisky

Bladnoch at MaltMadness

Bladnoch at Whisky

Bladnoch at Wikipedia

Bladnoch at WhiskyPortal

Bladnoch at MasterOfMalts

Bladnoch at WhiskyExhange

Bladnoch at SMWS

Bladnoch at Wormtub

Bladnoch at Whiskybase

Interesting Bladnoch links:

Alfred Barnard on Bladnoch

Can I tour Bladnoch?

Yes Bladnoch distillery is tourable. On Trip Advisor the distillery has been rated as excellent by 146 of 176 tours to date. This gives Bladnoch an overall rating of 5.0

Latest reviews

Worth a Visit and Book a Tour if You’re a Whisky Fan by Pippa R

A very enjoyable tour and a knowledgeable guide who offered lots of details in his comprehensive descriptions and enthusiasm. The silent period still allowed us to see the workings of the distillery and allowed us to hear clearly! Very much appreciated the tasting at the end.

Good Tour Well Explained Well Worth a Visit by Vince H

A good clear voice by the guide, the first time on any distillery tour I could hear all of the process into distilling whisky (5th different distillery's tours now done).

Interesting Tour With Knowledgeable Guide. by Bronzsurfer

I have driven past the distillery quite a few times as I visit nearby relatives but this Summer I thought I'd take a tour to see the inner workings. I was very lucky as I was the only one on my tour and Charlotte who showed me round was very informative explaining all the various stages of the process to me and showing me around. I couldn't taste the whiskeys afterwards as I was driving but Charlotte offered to bottle them for me so could take the home, I had to buy one of the tasting glasses so I could get the full experience at home! I would recommend this as an interesting day out that is mostly indoors so a great rainy day activity.

Rating Reviews
Excellent 146
Very good 23
Average 5
Poor 2
Terrible 0