Bo’ness distillery (1813-1925) was a nationally famous whiskey distillery in Falkirk, Scotland. The distillery began its life producing malt whisky before being converted to a grain distillery. In 1919 the Japanese whisky pioneer Masataka Taketsuru learned grain distillation at Bo’ness. The distillery was also visited by Alfred Barnard during his tour of Scotlands Whisky distilleries. Until they were destroyed by fire in the early 1990’s the two vast bonded warehouses that stood on the opposite side of the road from the distillery were capable of holding 5,000 barrels of whisky.
It is possible that Bo’ness distillery and ‘Wallace Paw’ distillery’ whose location is unknown, are one and the same. The ‘Wallace Paw’ was owned by Fargie and Steel & Co. in 1795 and Millar Baird & Co. from 1798-9 when the business was sequestrated. (M S Moss and J R Hume 1981). Salmon in his appendix on Bo’ness (Salmon 1913) notes that there was only one distillery within the town.
Bo’ness distillery is not to be confused with the Grieve Brothers Distillery 1817-1842, South Street, Bo’ness closed in after operating for about 25 years, until the surviving brother died and the company went bust.
The output from the Coffey Still was almost 20,000 gallons per week (870,000 gallons/annum), most of which went to the blenders. It was also one of Britain’s largest yeast produces with an output of almost 50 tons a week of yeast going to the baking and brewing industries. About 300 tons of “draff” was also produced and this was allowed to settle from the “spent wash” in dreg ponds before being dried, pelleted, bagged and sold as cattle feed.
Another by-product from the process of making grain whisky is fusel-oil, which up until the outbreak of WWI was considered a waste product (roughly 1 gallon for every 500 gallons of spirit was produced), but was then used to make varnish and aircraft “dope”.
Bo’ness (short for Borrowstounness, Scottish Gaelic Ceann Fhàil) is a town in the Scottish Council Area of Falkirk and the traditional county of West Lothian.
1813 Messer’s Tod, Padon and Vannen (sometimes spelled Vannen or Vannon) opened a distillery at Pan’s Brae, Corbiehall, which was bought out by the Vannens in 1829. They greatly improved it until 1873 when James Calder and Company purchased it.
Bo’ness Distillery had its Pot Stills dismantled and replaced by Coffey Stills for grain whisky output in 1876. The distillery changed hands once more in 1894 when it was acquired by James Calder & Co. Ltd. In the late 19th century the distillery had its own rail link to Bo’ness Harbour, which was mainly used to supply maize, barley was used to a lesser extent as by this time no malt whisky was being distilled. This also meant that a constant supply of peat wasn’t necessary. Bo’ness was once again sold to John Dewar in 1921 before being passed to DCL in 1925, when it was shut down. The warehouses were used by DCL until modern times but the entire plant is now completely demolished.
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1813: Messer's Tod, Padon and Vannan opened a distillery
1829: Rab Vannan alone as A & R Vannan
1874: Purchased by James Calder & Co. Ltd.
1876: Converted into a grain whisky via the installation of Coffey stills
1887: Visited by Alfred Barnard
1919: Masataka Taketsuru learned grain distillation at Bo'ness
1921: Sold to John Dewar
1925: Becomes part of DCL and closed