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All 19 Scottish Whisky Distilleries That Closed in The 1980s

Updated: Mar 6


Port Ellen distillery from the sea

The lead-up to the 80s


During World War II, most Scottish distilleries were closed or only produced industrial alcohol to support the war efforts. After the war, Churchill encouraged distillers to resume whisky production for export, and 30 distilleries began operating again in January 1945. However, in the late 1940s, the UK government mandated that every case sold domestically be met with four exported cases, resulting in a brief but thriving black market.


It was not until the 1950s that the industry returned to normal, with a boom of new distilleries being built, marking the second Golden Era for whisky. There was also a trend of restoring and re-equipping mothballed distilleries that, in some cases, had stayed silent since the First World War. The industry flourished for nearly 25 years and saw the introduction of single malts to the global market, with Glenfiddich leading the way.


By the 1980s, however, interest in whisky had significantly declined. People were more drawn to other spirits like gin, and whisky was perceived as an old man's drink. In 1983, the predecessor of Diageo, DLC, closed 11 malt distilleries, and many others mothballed their production due to a lack of demand. Some of the distilleries that ceased production in the 1980s were eventually closed in the early 1990s.


Around 30% of working distilleries stopped production completely or were mothballed at the beginning of the 1980s.

Whisky distilleries that closed in the 1980s timeline

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


This article will explore the distilleries that closed permanently during the 1980s. Some of these distilleries have become cult classics and highly collectable, while others have been revived in recent years to meet the ongoing demand for whisky.


 

1. Strathmore 1957-1982


Strathmore, also known as the North of Scotland distillery, was a small grain distillery located in Tullibody, Highlands. It started out as a brewery called Fourth, but in 1957, it began producing malt whisky using a continuous still. However, this cannot legally be called single malt as they used other grains instead of barley.


After a couple of years, they shifted their focus to producing grain whisky using other grains, which turned out to be a better success. Unfortunately, overproduction and other misfortunes in the late 1970s led to the sale of the distillery to DCL. In 1982, DCL moved the production to the neighbouring Cambus distillery and dismantled Strathmore gradually, transferring its equipment to other DCL properties.


The remaining distillery buildings are used as Diageo Global Supply bonded warehousing.


Strathmore whisky distillery closed 1982

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

2. St. Magdalene 1798-1983


The St. Magdalene distillery, also known as Linlithgow, was built on the site of a 12th-century hospital that treated lepers. Afterwards, the site was used as a convent named St. Magdalene. Today, the buildings have been transformed into luxury apartments.


Having endured the highs and lows of the industry for almost two centuries, the St. Magdalene distillery has a fascinating history. Alongside Clydesdale, Glenkinchie, Grange, and Rosebank, this Lowland distillery was one of the five original distilleries of SMD, which later became Diageo. The distillery ceased operations in 1983.


St. Magdalene Linlithgow whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

3. Carsebridge 1799-1983


Carsebridge, also known as Kerse Bridge, was situated just outside Alloa and was founded by John Bald in 1799. Initially, Carsebridge produced malt whisky, but in the 1850s, it installed a Coffey still to shift towards producing grain whisky. By the 1880s, the distillery was one of the largest whisky producers in Scotland. However, after its closure in 1983, most of the buildings on the site were either demolished or repurposed.


Carsebridge whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

4. Brora/ Old Clynelish 1819-1983


The history of Brora is closely connected to the Clynelish distillery. After the Second World War, the Clynelish distillery grew rapidly, and soon, the demand for its whisky exceeded its production capacity. To keep up with the demand, the New Clynelish distillery was built next door between 1967 and 1969, and the old Clynelish was renamed Brora.


Brora mainly focused on producing peated-style whisky, while the two distilleries worked together for 14 years. However, in 1983, Brora was closed indefinitely.


Clynelish has always been a favourite of blenders and whisky enthusiasts, while Brora has become one of the most well-known closed distilleries, loved by many. In 2018, Diageo started refurbishing the site slowly, and in 2021, it resumed producing whisky. Brora, once considered a 'lost distillery,' is now back in business.


Brora old Clynelish distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

5. North Port 1820-1983


The North Port distillery, also known as Brechin and Townhead, changed hands several times until it became part of SMD's portfolio in 1922. After being mothballed in 1983, most of the distillery was either demolished or renovated to accommodate other uses, as reopening it was deemed unfeasible. The last of the bricks were removed in 1994 and a supermarket and car park were built in its place.


North Port whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

6. Glenugie 1821-1983


The Glenugie distillery was constructed on the grounds of an old windmill and a small watchtower and was initially named Invernettie after the surrounding area. The distillery has a tumultuous history, marked by several closures and changes of ownership. In 1983, it was one of many distilleries that were shut down and eventually transformed into housing for two North Sea oil engineering firms.


Glenugie Invernettie distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

7. Banff 1863-1983


Banff has gained notoriety among whisky enthusiasts as the 'disaster distillery' due to the numerous unfortunate events that occurred during its existence. The distillery had experienced fires, closures, explosions, bombings, and other calamities, but perhaps the most famous incident was the one involving the drunken cows in the vicinity.


On August 16th, 1941, a German Junkers Ju-88 bombed warehouse No. 12, causing hundreds of casks to catch fire. In order to prevent the flames from spreading, the staff broke open the remaining casks and poured thousands of gallons of whisky into the nearby waterways and farmland. It was reported that waterfowl such as geese and ducks were seen drunkenly flapping their wings near the distillery, and cows missed their daily milking due to their inability to stand upright.


Despite the distillery's closure in 1983 and the demolition process that began in 1985, the last remaining fragments of the distillery were destroyed in a fire in 1991. Banff has become synonymous with a doomed distillery.


Banff whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

8. Glenesk 1897-198


The Glenesk distillery has gone by several names like Highland Esk, North Esk, Montrose, and Hillside. You may also come across bottlings that use the spelling Glen Esk. Interestingly, it is one of the few distilleries that shifted from making malt whisky to grain whisky and then back to malt whisky again.


For many years, the site of the distillery functioned as a malting facility, which continued to operate even after distillation ceased in 1983. The last stills were removed from the site in 1996.


Glenesk whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

9. Port Ellen 1898-1983


One of the most famous closed distilleries was located on the Isle of Islay. Port Ellen was a factory distillery that mainly produced whisky for blends, and its single malt was not highly valued at the time. It was only after the distillery's closure in 1983 that limited supply bottles of Port Ellen gained popularity, along with the Islay whisky trend.


Although the malting floors and warehouses remained in use, Port Ellen was closed from 1930 to 1967. Today, the site still handles most of the malting of barley brought to the island under Port Ellen Maltings. When the new millennium arrived, the distillery was demolished.


However, in 2017-18, Diageo announced their £35m investment plan to rebuild and reopen Brora and Port Ellen distilleries, bringing a change. The opening date for the new Port Ellen distillery has been postponed multiple times, and at the time of writing, we were unable to confirm the opening date.


Port Ellen whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

10. Glenlochy 1898-1983


Glenlochy, which was located near the only remaining distillery in the Fort William area - Ben Nevis, remained closed to the public for most of its existence. After its final closure in 1983, the owners of SMD applied for a demolition permit in 1986, but their request was denied. As a result, the site was neglected and fell into disrepair.


In 1992, new owners, West Coast Inns Ltd. transformed part of the site into a hotel and leisure centre. All production buildings and warehouses were demolished, but the pagoda-roofed maltings and kilns were left intact for future redevelopment.


Glenlochy whisky distillery closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

11. Dallas Dhu 1899-1983


The status of the Dallas Dhu distillery has been a topic of debate, specifically whether it should be classified as closed.


Located two miles south of Forres, the distillery has been inactive since 1983 but remains intact and well-preserved, serving as a 'museum of distilling'. Although production could potentially resume, there is no information on when or if that will happen. The distillery is currently owned by Historic Scotland, and their next steps regarding the future of the distillery are unknown. It's possible that the lack of a valid distilling license is a factor that's preventing them from restarting production.


Dallas Dhu whisky distillery museum closed in 1983

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

12. Convalmore 1894-1985


Convalmore is one of the distilleries that was lost in Dufftown, located in the heart of Speyside. Although the distillery is still standing and is owned by William Grant & Sons, there are no plans to reopen it for distilling.


In the early 1900s, the distillery was equipped with a continuous distillation system to produce malt spirit, but it is unclear whether or not it was successful. The distillery was closed in 1985 by SMD and was later acquired by the current owners. William Grant & Sons, known for their other whisky distilleries such as Glenfiddich and Balvenie, still use Convalmore's warehouses to mature their other single malts. Although the stills and production appliances have been removed, the buildings remain intact.


Convalmore whisky distillery closed in 1985

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

13. Coleburn 1987-1985


Coleburn distillery was situated in Speyside, right next to the Linkwood distillery. Although it was in operation for many years, little is known about its history. This small distillery mainly produced whisky for blends, which meant that when the mid-1980s came around, it was deemed surplus to requirements and mothballed.


In the 1990s, United Distillers was granted permission to turn the site into apartments. However, despite many years of planning, the project has yet to start. Several other projects have been proposed for the site, such as a Whisky Hotel, but none have come to fruition until recently. In 2014, the dunnage warehouses were renovated, and they are now being used by Murray McDavid for their bottlings.


Coleburn whisky distillery closed in 1985

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

14. Glenury Royal 1826-1986


Glenury Royal was established by Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, who was not only a gambler but also the greatest long-distance walker of his time. The distillery was awarded the royal warrant because of the captain's close relationship with King William IV. The king tried the dram, liked it, and ordered more, which ultimately led to the distillery receiving the royal warrant.


The last casks were sent away in 1987, a year after the distillery was shut down. In 1993, the site was converted into housing. Today, the only trace of the distillery that remains is a plaque on the site where Glenury Royal used to be located.


Glenury Royal whisky distillery closed in 1986

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

15. Glen Albyn 1844-1986


For many years, Glen Albyn was able to survive longer than other distilleries that were closing down. Despite having its share of ups and downs, Glen Albyn managed to recover, and its history is closely intertwined with that of its neighbouring distillery, Glen Mhor. Of the two distilleries, Glen Mhor became the preferred malt, and most of the whisky produced in Albyn was used in blends.


Glen Albyn was closed in 1983 and completely demolished in 1986. However, you can still visit the site by going to the supermarket that was built in its place soon after the distillery closed down.


Glen Albyn whisky distillery closed in 1986

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

16. Glen Mhor 1892-1986


Glen Mhor, which was located next door to Glen Albyn, was also closed down and mothballed. Although Mhor whisky was also used in blends, it was one of the first whiskies to be sold as a single malt due to its "honest subtle richness and 'fatness' reminiscent of the patina of old furniture," as described by whisky writer Neil Gunn.


Glen Mhor had a similar history to Glen Albyn as it installed a Saladin Box in 1954 and was bought by DLC in 1972. Unfortunately, the distillery was mothballed in 1983 and later demolished in 1986.


Glen Mhor whisky distillery closed in 1983 and demolished in 1986

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

17. Garnheath 1965-1986


Garnheath, also known as Moffat, had a short-lived presence in the world of whisky, lasting only 21 years. Despite the rather bleak appearance of the warehouses in the picture, the distillery was a modern and state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1965.


Garnheath produced a grain whisky under its own name, but it also distilled and matured single malts like Glen Flagler and Killyloch. One of the interesting single malts produced by the distillery was Islebrae, which had a peated style and is believed to have only been bottled once.


Due to an overcapacity of grain whisky, Garnheath was mothballed in 1986 and eventually demolished in 1988 by Inver House. The only remaining buildings on the site are the camp-like warehouses.


Garnheath Moffat whisky distillery closed in 1986

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

18. Millburn 1807-1988


Millburn was the oldest distillery in Inverness and was named after a river that provided cooling water for the establishment. It has had multiple owners over the years, and in the 1850s, it was operated as a mill rather than a distillery. Millburn was built between hills and a river, making it impossible to expand the venue, and the equipment was getting old when it came time to increase production. This may have been one of the reasons for its downfall at the peak of the second whisky wave, leading to inevitable closure.


Millburn was mothballed in early 1985 and in around 1990, it was purchased by the Beefeater chain, who transformed the premises into a hotel and restaurant called 'The Auld Distillery'. From tragedy came hope, and the site has been treated kindly, now operating as a steakhouse.


The single malt produced in Millburn was said to be somewhat obscure and demanded an acquired taste. It has also been bottled under the name Inverness.


Millburn whisky distillery closed in 1988

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

19. Caledonian 1855-1988


Caledonian was once the largest grain distillery in Scotland. It was established in 1855 under the name Edinburgh Distillery but was renamed to Caledonian by Graham Menzies, who was previously involved with Saucel and Sunbury distilleries. Menzies abandoned the premise of expanding Sunbury and went on to build 'The Cally', which quickly became a huge industrial whisky producer.


At one point, Caledonian also produced single malt whisky because the distillery had three pot stills and an excess of malted barley.


DCL sold Caledonian to Guinness in 1986, but the new ownership was short-lived. The distillery was mothballed after only two years. Despite rumours that Caledonian might resume production after its closure in 1988, the hopes dwindled, and the distilling equipment was eventually dismantled. The site was put up for sale in 1995, and most of Caledonian has been converted into commercial and residential developments. Nevertheless, the tall chimney still stands as a reminder of the once-great grain whisky distillery.


Caledonian grain whisky distillery closed in 1988

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

This article's main source of information was Brian Townsend's amazing book, Scotch Missed: The Original Guide to the Lost Distilleries of Scotland.


The book is available in many outlets, but follow the link below to check it out at WHSmith.

 

Did we forget something? Let us know below.



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