Whisky Focus - Macduff Distillery Celebrates 60 Years

Macduff Distillery Celebrates 60 Years

3rd September 2020
Macduff Distillery celebrates 60 years of whisky production

Following the lifting of government controls on the distilling industry in 1959, including malt and grain rationing which had been in place since World War II, the door was opened to increase whisky production in Scotland and one of the first distilleries to be constructed was the new modern (for its time) Macduff Distillery near Banff in the east Highlands.

The Macduff Distillery distillery was founded by a group of Glasgow brokers - George T. Crawford, James Stirrat and Brodie Hepburn who together formed the Glendeveron Distillers Ltd. Brodie Hepburn from the group brought with him knowledge and experience of owning other distilleries such as the William Delme-Evans designed Tullibardine distillery which he purchased from William Delme-Evans in 1953, he was also later behind the founding of Deanston distillery in 1965 but before that it was architect William Delme-Evans who Brodie Hepburn and the rest of the Glendeveron Distillers Ltd turned to for the design of Macduff Distillery.

Filling the first cask at Macduff Distillery 16th June 1960 - Image copyright Bodies of Banff

Just over 60 years ago, 16th June 1960, the Macduff Distillery in Banffshire filled its first cask of single malt whisky, Cask #1 was filled by two of the Glendeveron Distillers Ltd founders and their wives, Mr & Mrs James Stirrat and Mr & Mrs George T. Crawford.

Macduff Distillery official opening invite 1st September 1960 photo copyright Bodies of BanffHowever the official opening of the Macduff Distillery didn't take place until around 10 weeks later, in fact it was exactly 60 years ago, on Thursday, 1st September, 1960 and it was officially opened by Colonel Sir George W. Abercromby, 8th Baronet, D.S.O. Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire. The official opening was attended by local business people, members of the whisky industry and the local press and the 1st September is the date the distillery marks their anniversary each year, as it was the moment Macduff distillery went officially ‘into the whisky business’.

Even some of the most ardent whisky connoisseurs amongst you could be forgiven for not recognising Macduff Distillery, as the single malt whisky it produces today does not carry the distillery name, you may be more familiar with Glendeveron single malt whisky or more recently in 2015 the single malt was rebranded 'The Deveron', at least the whisky available in the domestic market was, for some reason they chose to retain the name Glendeveron for the Macduff distillery's travel retail offerings.

Back in 1960, Macduff Distillery’s first manager was James Nicol who oversaw the bottling of its first whisky in 1968 – a five-year-old, labelled ‘Macduff Pure Highland Malt Scotch Whisky’. The reason the whisky hasn't retained the name Macduff is the Distillers' Company Limited, now Diageo, own the brand name Macduff.

Following the late 1960s Macduff Pure Highland Malt 5 year old bottling there was a mid-1970s release of a Glendeveron 8 year old. There was also a Glendeveron 12 year old year old in the 1980s and more recently there was a 10 year old.

Most of the whisky produced since the distillery's construction has gone into blends such as the current owners, (Barcardi) John Dewar & Sons, very popular William Lawson's Scotch blended whisky although some has been sold as single malt under the name Glendeveron over the years.

In 2013 things began to change when (Barcardi) John Dewar & Sons, launched the the global travel retail exclusive Glen Deveron Royal Burgh Collection which was made up of three single malts - Glen Deveron 16 Year Old, Glen Deveron 20 Year Old and Glen Deveron 30 Year Old. Each is made with previously unreleased rare, aged whiskies hand-selected from the distillery’s private reserve.

This was followed in late 2015 when John Dewars & Sons rebranded the single malt 'The Deveron' and launched The Deveron 10, 12 and 18 year old into the domestic market.

Today, Jamie Winfield holds the prestigious Macduff Distillery Manager title, he commented: "The distillery’s history and its importance to the local area is always front of mind when I walk in each morning. It’s a real privilege to be part of its past, present and future as we build on generations of craftsmanship and skill, alongside the very latest technology, to create incredible whiskies that are enjoyed around the world. This week, both here at the distillery and with our 7,000-strong global Bacardi family, we’re taking a moment to celebrate a successful 60 years in the whisky business for Macduff – here’s to many more fantastic years to come!"

The Macduff Distillery team 2020 celebrates 60 years of whisky production.

Based in Glasgow, Jacqueline Seargeant, Global Heritage Manager for Bacardi, is responsible for archiving the rich history of Bacardi’s distilleries in Scotland. She comments, "At Bacardi we have 158 years of history, going right back to the founding of the company in Cuba in 1862. Recording and sharing those stories is what my team and I do every day. I’ve loved delving into the archives ahead of the Macduff 60th and uncovering the news cuttings, photographs and even video footage which documents the distillery’s past.

"It was a significant moment for the local area when Macduff opened its doors. There was an official opening on 1st September 1960 which was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire, Colonel Sir George W. Abercromby 8th Baronet D.S.O, as well as local business people, members of the whisky industry and the local press. That’s the date we mark our anniversary each year, as it was the moment Macduff distillery was officially ‘in business’.

"This period was the dawning of a new era in distilling processes. Production at Macduff was simple and compact, focusing on energy saving techniques such as lagged pot stills which were also steam heated and the use of gravity instead of pumps. It’s fantastic to see that respect for the distillery’s beautiful natural surroundings still firmly in place today.

"From changes in ownership to adapting to changes in technology and whisky production techniques, it’s been a fascinating journey for Macduff over the last six decades, and I have no doubt there will be many more amazing stories to come."

The whisky produced at Macduff still to a certain extent gets overlooked by some whisky drinkers today which is a pity as they do produce a quality dram, here's to the next 60 years and if you want to explore what they have to offer you will find The Deveron whisky range available from specialist online whisky retailers such as The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt

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