The exact date of Glen Albyn's foundation is somewhat disputed, Whisky magazine places this in 1840, Alfred Barnard places this in 1846 and other accounts fall in between. The most reliable data available seems to indicate work began in accounts agree work began in 1844 and distillation began in 1846. Likewise it's regional position is somewhat debated, most accounts placed the distillery in the Highlands however Michael Jackson (who's classification system I use) places the distillery in Speyside.
What seems certain is that the distillery was founded in Inverness by Provost James Sutherland on the site of a ruined brewery and that it operated somewhat intermittently from 1846 to 1983. For most of it's life it's fare was twinned with the neighbouring Glen Mhor distillery, set up by John Birnie, the former Glen Albyn manager, who left due to disagreements on concerning the running of the distillery. Only a few years after it's foundation Glen Albyn was badly damaged by fire though production seems to have resumed fairly quickly, alas Sutherland suffered financial difficulties and the distillery fell silent before being turned into a flour mill in 1866. Happily the distillery was rebuilt and re-established by Gregory & Co. in 1884, and 2 years later visited by Alfred Barnard who describes the state of thew art equipment
"The Malt Mill, which occupies one of the sides of the archway, is fitted up with the latest and most improved style of machinery for grinding" and that the
"condensing Worms are of the latest and best approved style".
Neighbouring Glen Mhor distillery was founded in 1892 by former Glen Albyn manager John Birnie and James Mackinlay of Leith based blenders Charles Mackinlay and Co. and both distilleries remained separate though widely blended together. Interestingly between 1917 and 1919 Glen Albyn fell silent and was used as a US Naval base producing sea mines and anti-submarine nets. Following the war in 1920 Mackinlays & Birnie (owners of the the nearby Glen Mhor ) bought out Glen Albyn, in 1954 both distilleries became among the first to switch to Saladin box style maltings. Throughout their history Glen Mhor seems to have been the dominant distillery. In 1972 both distilleries were acquired by Distillers Company Limited (DCL) subsidiary Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd (SMD). Saldin maltings were discontinued in 1980 and in 1983 Glen Albyn along with Glen Mhor were mothballed never to reopen. The sites of both distilleries are long since gone though a number of bottles are still available at auction.
Glen Albyn comes from the Scottish Gaelic Gleann Albainn meaning the "Glen of Scotland". The distillery name is often erroneously translated as 'great glen', this actually relates to neighbouring Glen Mhor.
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Glen Albyn Timeline:
1844 : The distillery is formally inaugurated on the 10th of October
1846 : The first spirit is produced
1849 : The distillery is gutted by fire but speedily rebuilt
1866 : The distillery is converted to a flour mill after having sat silent for several years
1884 : Glen Albyn is rebuilt as a distillery
1892 : Glen Mhor distillery is founded next door
1917 : Between 1917 and 1919 Glen Albyn falls silent and is used as a US Naval base producing sea mines and anti-submarine nets
1920 : Mackinlays & Birnie (owners of the the nearby Glen Mhor ) buy out Glen Albyn
1954 : Both distilleries become among the first to switch to Saladin box style maltings
1972 : Both distilleries are acquired by DCL subsidiary Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd
1980 : Saldin maltings are discontinued in 1980
1983 : Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor are mothballed never to reopen