Water of Life - Benromach
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Duncan MacCallum, of Glen Nevis Distillery, Campbeltown, and FW Brickmann, spirit broker, of Leith, founded the Benromach Distillery Company in 1898. Alexander Edward, a leading promoter of distillery enterprises of Sanquhar, Forres, granted them a feu charter for a plot of his land north of the railway junction at Forres.
The company appointed Charles Doig, an eminent distillery engineer from Elgin, as their architect. All distilleries designed by Doig were functionally efficient.
Travellers on the Inverness to Aberdeen railway line noted in November 1898 that work was taking place on the roof and in December 1898, Doig told a local journalist that the building was nearing completion. Unfortunately a massive depression hit the Scotch whisky industry only weeks later. Brickmann’s firm was suspended in October 1899 with liabilities exceeding £70,000, and MacCallum experienced great difficulties in finding buyers for his product. The distillery was due to start production in spring 1899, but was inactive until May 1900 when it was reported to be conducting trials.
Benromach changed hands before being acquired by Harvey McNair & Co of London in 1911, who announced that they intended to recommence distilling in the spring of 1912. The distillery remained in production up to the beginning of the First World War in 1914.
After the war, Benromach was bought by John Joseph Calder, who promptly sold it to the Benromach Distillery Ltd, a private company registered in late 1919 in Edinburgh. Several breweries held shares in the new company.
Benromach was working in 1925 but at some point it fell silent until it was bought again in 1937. The distillery was transferred in 1938 to Associated Scottish Distilleries Ltd (ASD). ASD was bought by National Distillers, an American corporation that in turn sold it to The Distillers Company Limited of Edinburgh in 1953. Benromach was then transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd (SMD). SMD at that time noted that Benromach had excellent gardens, which have been kept in good order.
March 24th 1983 saw the last filling under the ownership of United Distillers. The workers on that day who witnessed that last filling signed their names on the filling store wall. Benromach Distillery was now officially closed.
In 1993 Gordon and MacPhail bought the mothballed site.The two new stills were finally installed along with all the production equipment. Production restarted at Benromach nearly 100 years after the first distillation.
On October 15th 1998 HRH Prince of Wales officially reopened the distillery at a grand opening ceremony, which attracted visitors and guests from all over the world. His Highness was offered a tasting of a special centenary bottling of Benromach.
This limited edition bottling, limited to 3,500 bottles worldwide, was also a great opportunity to present The Prince of Wales with a bottle to celebrate his 50th birthday. George Urquhart, then chairman of Gordon and MacPhail, presented His Highness with a bottle appropriately numbered 50. HRH The Prince of Wales also signed the first cask stored in the main warehouse, where visitors to Benromach can see it even today.
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