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Cambus distillery

The Cambus distillery is currently owned by the Diageo group, which closed it in 1993 as part of restructuring measures. In its early years, Cambus produced malt whiskey, but from 1836 onwards, grain whiskey was produced. Cambus whiskey is characterized by a light and grainy character and, as a grain whiskey, is usually cheaper than single malts of comparable age.

About Cambus distillery

The Cambus distillery is believed to have been founded in 1806 in a former mill in Alloa, near the River Devon. Cambus was one of the 6 Lowland grain distilleries which amalgamated to form Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1877, today Diageo.

How does Cambus whiskey taste?

In contrast to single malt whiskey, Cambus is a single grain whisky so is typically lighers and more grainy. Grain whiskies are typically bottled much older so showcase the cask impact. The light aroma goes well with intensive maturations such as sherry barrels. Cambus whiskies are typically described as having a strong hint of rosewater on the nose.

In 1993 the distillery was closed and the technical facilities dismantled. The buildings currently house a bottling plant, bonded warehouses and a cooperage for Diageo. Occasionally, barrels are still being brought onto the market by independent bottlers though from time to time Diageo brings a limited original bottling onto the market, the most recent was aged 40 years old.

How was Cambus whiskey produced?

Cambus was a single grain scotch whiskey which means it is made from different types of grain and not exclusively from malted barley. Two coffey stills were used for production, which could be operated continuously. The water for the production process came from the Lossburn Reservoir, while the water for the dilution came from Loch Turret.

History of Cambus distillery

The exact details of the founding of Cambus distillery are somewhat murky as dates and accounts vary, what is clear is that in 1806 a distillery was founded in Cambus. The next record show John Mowbray (MourBray) registered the business in 1813, and gaining land title in 1823.

In 1836 Cambus became on of many Scotch distilleries to introduce a Robert Stein style ‘continuous column’ still, in essence converting from Malt to what we now call Grain. Cambus is noteworthy as one of the 6 Lowland grain distillers that became DCL, and later Diagio. The distillery was also recorded by the famed brewing and distilling historian Alfred Bernard who visited the site in 1885 recording that ‘rail sidings ran to all the principal warehouses’ and that the six huge warehouses on an 8 acre site held some 17,000 casks containing 1.4 million gallons, he also notes that such was their production that the site had 7 Excise officers. It’s protected position as part of DCL saw Cambus survive and even thrive the pre-war period until a fire in 1914 saw much of the complex destroyed.

Rebuilt in 1937 with production beginning in December the distillery fell silent again at the outbreak of the second world war. Ultimately in spite of constant innovation and upgrade including the fitting of rectifiers, carbon dioxide processing and a cattle feed drying plant the vast distillery fell surplus to requirements. Distilling was concentrated in the Cameronbridge, and now closed Port Dundas distilleries. The site now holds Diagio’s cooperage. Contrary to a number of domains the ‘Scotch Watch’ guard geese were found at Dumbarton rather than the Cambus distillery

Cambus factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Cambus Lowlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Closed 1806 - 1993 Grain Cambus Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group

Cambus Timeline:

1806: A malt whisky distillery was founded in Cambus in 1806

1813: John Moubray establishes, or re-establishes the Cambus distillery

1836: Cambus is converted from malt to grain output with the addition of a Robert Stein style 'continuous column' still

1842: James Moubray, John's son, takes over the business

1843: John's grandson Robert Moubray assumes control of the distillery

1851: Robert modernises the distillery with addition of a Coffey still allowing the creation of 250 gallons per hour

1877: Cambus becomes part of the newly-formed Distillers Company Limited (DCL)

1882: DCL acquires the adjacent Old Cambus Brewery and expands the distillery

1906: Cambus advertises it's grain on the front page of The Daily Mail as 'Not a headache in a gallon'

1914: Fire ravages the distillery, forcing its closure

1937: Cambus is completely rebuilt at the cost of £275,000 and resumes production but ceases after only 2 years due to the second world war

1944: Cambus is reopened and resumes distilling

1964: Cambus becomes the first distillery to introduce an onsite waste processing plant

1993: The distillery is closed

2011: Diageo's restructure sees the coopering operations from Dundashill and Carsebridge moved to a new onsite cooperage

Useful Cambus links:

Cambus at Green Welly Stop

Cambus at MaltMadness

Cambus at MasterOfMalts

Cambus at ScotchWhisky

Cambus at Whisky

Cambus at WhiskyExhange

Cambus at Whiskybase

Cambus at Wikipedia

Cambus at Wormtub

Interesting Cambus links:

A Walk in the past, Rebuilding Cambus

Alfred Barnard on Cambus

The Whisky cyclist

Can I tour Cambus?

No, unfortunately Cambus distillery is not open to the public for tours