Scotland and Scotch whisky: Lowlands  whisky through the producing distilleries: history, making, maps and tasting notes



Bladnoch Distillery
Wigtownshire DG8 9AB
+44 1988 402 605

Owner: David Prior

Creation year: 1817

Bladnoch, the most southern distillery of Scotland, was originally a farm created between 1814 and 1817 by the McClelland family. The family has been the owner of the distillery until 1871 when it was given up to the company T&A McClelland and Co who made some alterations in 1878.
The distillery has been closed often since 1930 and has been mothballed in 1993.
During the 40's, T&A McClelland became part of the Irish distiller Dunville & Co from Belfast. This company did not reopen the distillery, but sold it after World War II to Ross & Coulter who resold it to A.B. Grant who finally reopened the distillery under the name of Bladnoch Distillery Ltd in 1956.
A.B. Grant was taken over by Ian Fisher, shareholder of McGown & Cameron from Glasgow. The distillery has also belonged to Inver House Distillers Ltd between 1973 and 1983, before closing its doors again for 2 years. After this last closing, it has been acquired by Arthur Bell & Sons who modernised the distillery. The group became part of Guinness who acquired the D.C. L. group one year later to become the distillery branch called "United Distillers & Vintners".
UDV closed the distillery in 1993, together with BalmenachRosebank et Pittyvaich.
Raymond Armstrong, an Irish businessman acquired it on year later. A visitor centre and and an Internet site were opened in 1998, in the hope the distillery would reopen soon. This was the hope of lots of whisky lovers, as the malt coming from this Lowlands distillery is really outstanding.
This reopening happened in 2000.
However, the production is confidential at the moment, limited at about 100.000 litres a year. 
The distillery was mothballed in 2019 and an Australian business man, David Prior gave it a new life in 2015.

Hommage to Raymond Armstrong.


A visit to Bladnoch, one of the last active distilleries in the Lowlands is an unforgettable experience, especially if one is lucky enough to have Raymond Armstrong as a guide.
Bladnoch is situated ouside of the small town Wigtown. A small village with its pub, its few inhabitants and its distillery which was doomed to disappear definitely a few years ago.
Fortunately for all whisky lovers, Raymond decided differently, against all the odds. 

In fact, the distillery is much more than just a distillery for the village, as the old malting floors have been transformed in a (movie) theater. The distillery has become part of the life of the village residents. The evening of our visit to Bladnoch, a film about some local legend (I've forgotten the name and the subject) was shown. At the end of the film, some giant puppet representing one of the figures of the film had to be burned. The pictures above show this. 

During the same week-end "Restless Raymond Armstrong" organized a whisky class for whisky enthusiasts who want to know more about the making fo whisky. One of Raymond's guest speakers was John MacDougall, who has been the director of several Scottish distilleries, and important ones like Laphroaig, Springbank or Tomatin.

But the first role of the distillery is to distil whisky. Even if the first idea of Raymond when he purchased the building was to make it a holiday resort. But very soon he understood a distillery has to produce whisky;.., that what Raymond concluded after a while. This was the beginning of new challenges. First of them was to convince Diageo to let him produce again, as this was against one of the conditions stipulated in the purchase contract. What was Diageo afraid for? afraid for a raid by a rival? That the distillery could be repurchased by an Indian or Japanese group? I do not know, but the new owner had to be very courageous and pugnacious to achieve his dream: reopen the distillery. His activity is however contractually limited to 100.000 liters of pure alcohol a year.

Behind all this various episodes characterizing the revival of Bladnoch, one has to agree that the courage and the persistence of Raymond were necessary to achieve this goal, and save one of the last active Lowlands distillery. 
Lowland whiskies are often underestimated, wrongly, by whisky lovers who prefer often the typical spirits of Islay or of the Northern Highlands. Salted, marine, peated whiskies, while the Lowland ones are more discrete and generally less spectacular.
Less spectacular? Not so sure. Just try one of the cask strength versions recently marketed... the Sheep Labels 15 or 16 y.o....

All whisky lovers can be grateful for the marvelous work done by this Irish building contractor who was able to restore one of the best distilleries of the Lowlands, perhaps even one of the best of Scotland. 



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