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12 Haunted Distilleries of Scotland

Updated: Mar 5



Lady ghost haunting a distillery

Scottish history spans thousands of years, and it's no surprise that legends of past lives continue to be passed down through the ages, particularly those lingering around old British buildings. However, it's not just castles that are haunted by spirits (other than whisky) - some distilleries have their own stories to tell about their sometimes-unwanted occupants.


While there are many stories about haunted distilleries, most of the information available is limited, lacking specific details or named sources. These legends are often brief and full of mystery. Yet, we have managed to identify 12 Scottish distilleries that share stories of lives lost.



 
  1. Glenrothes

There is a well-known ghost story associated with The Glenrothes distillery. The story is about a man named Biawa 'Byeway' Makalanga, who was related to the family that used to own the Glen Grant distillery located further down the village. Byeway was buried in the cemetery that overlooks The Glenrothes distillery. According to the legend, Byeway returned to the Glenrothes distillery in the 1980s to haunt the workers.


Old cemetery next to the Glenrothes distillery

Image by Flaviar


While travelling to Zimbabwe, Major James Grant came across two little orphan boys and decided to take them back to his home village of Rothes. He managed the Glen Grant distillery, and over the years, one of the boys, Byeway, became his footman and general servant. Byeway served in World War I with honours, and upon his return to Rothes, he was an avid football player. Nobody knew his real age, but at the time of his death in 1972, he was thought to be in his 80s.


However, trouble arose when the Glenrothes distillery opened a new still house in 1980. The number 3 still wasn't performing as well as expected, and Byeway's ghost began to appear. In 1981, Professor Cedric Wilson visited the distillery to investigate the sudden haunting and discovered that the new building had damaged a key line that ran through the distillery, cemetery, and Rothes castle. Iron rods were placed to correct the energy flow; the ghost hasn't been seen since. Nonetheless, Byeway is still honoured before every tasting at the distillery.


Biawa "Byeway" Makalanga The Glenrothes distillery

Image by scotchwhisky.com - Biawa "Byeway" Makalanga



 

2. Cardhu


There have been reports of ghostly sightings at the Cardhu distillery in Speyside. The most famous of these is the apparition of a washman, who has been seen multiple times on the premises. It is believed that this ghostly figure is the spirit of a distillery worker who passed away suddenly in 1994, just a month before he was due to retire.


Over 30 years ago, the mash house at the distillery was also said to be haunted by the sound of footsteps, which were believed to belong to an old mashman. After these disturbances started, the boots of a recently deceased distillery worker were discovered and subsequently burned. Following this, the footsteps stopped.


Haunting of Cardhu distillery

Image by The Three Drinkers - Cardhu Distillery



 

3. Aberlour


There is a legend about a ghost Lady and a Dog at Aberlour distillery. Misako Udo mentions this tale in her book The Scottish Whisky Distilleries, but not much information is available. However, one story suggests that a dog figure appears at the distillery from time to time. Additionally, there is a photograph taken at the distillery where a womanly figure is seen looming in the background. Perhaps she was searching for her dog?


Ghost lady and a dog haunting Aberlour distillery

Image by American Literature/ Inverurie Whisky Shop



 

4. Glen Scotia


The Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown has a ghost story to tell. A former manager, Duncan MacCallum, is believed to have haunted the premises. He purchased the distillery in 1891 but tragically committed suicide by drowning in the Campbeltown Loch in 1930 after a bad business deal that stripped him of all of his earnings.


Glen Scotia distillery haunting Duncan MacCallum

Image by Whisky Antique/ The Whisky Ardvark



 

5. Glenmorangie


Legend has it that the ghost of the 'White Lady' haunts the Glenmorangie cooperage. The story was believed to be fabricated to keep apprentices alert during their long night shifts on the malting floors, where the ghost was originally seen. After the maltings were shut down, she supposedly started appearing at the cooperage.


No one knows the origin of the ghost, or how she came to be in the distillery, but it is said that she has the ability to drive people insane. She has been reported to have peeled off wallpaper, moved boxes around, and created such a spooky atmosphere that it sends shivers down your spine. As a result, apprentices are warned to remain alert and not fall asleep.


White lady haunting Glenmorangie distillery

Image by Daily Business/ The Whisky Ardvark



 

6. Glen Ord


The Glen Ord distillery is believed to be haunted by a former maltman who is said to endlessly turn a vanished piece on the unused malting floors. Additionally, a figure of an old local auctioneer can be seen visiting the distillery once a year. While he was alive, the auctioneer used to stop by for a dram on his way home, and it is said that he has continued to do so every year even after his death.


The haunting of Glen Ord distillery

Image by malts.com



 

7. Glen Spey


The Glen Spey distillery ghost story dates back to WWII when a soldier electrocuted himself on the premises. His spirit is said to still haunt the distillery.


soldier haunting glen spey distillery

Image by The Single Malt Shop



 

8. Highland Park


The Highland Park distillery located in Orkney is believed to be haunted by Magnus Eunson. Eunson was a descendant of Vikings who worked as a butcher and church officer during the day and an illicit distiller and whisky smuggler during the night. He founded the distillery but was caught in 1798 for distilling spirits illegally. However, he was later granted a license in 1823 to distil legally. Some of the distillery employees are convinced that Eunson's spirit still roams around the distillery premises after dark, keeping an eye on his legacy. Moreover, some people believe the Kirkwall site is home to various Viking spirits.


Highland park distillery haunted by Magnus Eunson

Image by Cask 88



 

9. Glenkinchie


The Glenkinchie distillery in Lowland is known to have multiple ghosts. There are three well-known spirits, including Gentle Tom, Mrs Redpath, and Mischievous Willie. Gentle Tom and Mrs Redpath are said to be friendly ghosts who tend to inhabit the visitor's centre. Mrs Redpath likes to open doors that have been shut for a long time. On the other hand, Mischievous Willie is a malevolent spirit who has been reported to attack a tour guide and throw them around the floor.


ghost haunting in Glenkinchie distillery

Image by Scotsman Food & Drink



 

10. Glengoyne


A former distillery manager, Mr Cochrane Cartwright, is believed to haunt the Glengoyne distillery on the border of Lowlands and Highlands. He served his duty from 1869 until he died in 1899 at the age of 43, tragically drowning in a cooling pool behind the distillery. It is believed that he still watches over the whisky produced in Glengoyne.


Mr Cochrane Cartwright haunts the Glengoyne distillery

Image by Echoes of the Past



 

11. Tomatin


The Tomatin distillery is known to have a unique ghost, the Cu Bocan. The distillery has also released a smoky version of its whisky named after the spirit hound. The Gaelic phrase 'ghost dog' is believed to be the spirit of the last wolf killed in Scotland. While rare, sightings of this ghost have been reported over the years, and they are always terrifying. The Whisky Lore Podcast sheds more light on this mysterious spirit, stating that it is seen only once in a generation.

A distillery worker, out walking late, was once relentlessly pursued by an imposing black beast, steam spiraling from flared nostrils, teeth bared. Compelled beyond all-natural reason to feel the hound's dense fur he stopped and reached out, hand trembling, only to see the ghostly spectre - Cù Bòcan - dissolve before his eyes leaving nothing but a vacuum of deathly silence and an inky blue cloud of smoke, soon spirited away across the peat moorland…
ghost dog of Tomatin distillery Cu Bocan

Image by peatdream



 

12. Jura


The Jura distillery located in the Isle of Jura is believed to house two lingering spirits. The first one is an old lady who was seen by Laird Archibald Campbell. In 1781, he prohibited distilling on the island, stating that the angry spirit of the old lady had awakened him. He was so frightened that he opened a distillery in 1810 to appease the spirit. In 2010, a webcam captured an image of a deceased island school teacher, Elisabeth, on the distillery grounds.


hauntings at Jura distillery

Image by PR Week

 

Have you heard about a haunted distillery that we may have forgotten about? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned to The Whisky Ardvark with #whiskyardvark #thewhiskyardvark




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