News

Glenglassaugh returns

By Rob Allanson
Highland malt will be flowing again soon from the long-mothballed Glenglassaugh distillery, following its sale in March by the Edrington Group.The new owners is a Dutch investment group The Scaent Group and this is its first investment in the drinks market. Scaent’s main interests currently are in the bulk energy market in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe but they plan to diversify into consumer markets, hence this apparently radical purchase.Glenglassaugh itself dates from 1875 but little remains of the original distillery. This was demolished and an entirely new distillery opened in 1960 by then owner Highland Distillers. The spirit was used in a number of blends, most notably Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse and latterly was produced in a Speyside style.Highland Distillers closed Glenglassaugh in 1986 not, as has been reported, due to problems with the water supply but because expansion at the Glenrothes distillery meant its capacity was no longer needed and it was more economic to produce at Glenrothes.Since then, Glenglassaugh has been largely forgotten, except for some limited single malt releases from Highland Distillers and the odd independent bottling.The new owners have appointed former William Grant & Sons’ distilleries director Stuart Nickerson as managing director, charged with getting the distillery back to production. For industry veteran Nickerson, this marks a return to Glenglassaugh where he was manager shortly after its closure (he also ran Glenrothes at that time).Nickerson began work in the distilling industry in 1981 when he joined Arthur Bell & Co at Dufftown. His career includes spells with Bells, Highland Distillers, Diageo and latterly William Grants where he managed both the Girvan and Dufftown distillery complexes.He plans to re-open distilling by the last quarter of this year.“The distillery is in surprisingly good condition,” he told us. “Though it requires total re-wiring, a new boiler and steam system, replacement of some pumps and pipework and a general spring clean to restart production there are no really substantial problems.We have already started recruiting warehouse and production staff and contractors will be onsite soon to start the essential renovations.” Nickerson intends to restore Glenglassaugh’s Highland pedigree. “We won’t be trying for a Speyside style,” he explained “but looking for a true Highland character that reflects the coastal location.I’m excited about getting the stills running and finding Glenglassaugh’s true spirit character.” There are also plans to begin marketing some of the stock acquired from Edrington. As soon as new packaging has been finalised international distribution will be arranged for single cask releases of 30 year old and 40 year old whisky, though quantities of both are described as ‘limited’.Kilmarnock-born Derek McLennan, Scaent Group executive vice-president commented: “We are excited to participate in the revival of one of the oldest whisky distilleries in the world and for our Group to gain a foothold within the global whisky market. We fully appreciate the traditions and dynamics within the Scottish whisky industry and the significant part that distilleries play in Scotland's unique cultural and historical heritage.“Therefore we readily accept the challenge of restoring this small but highly significant part of whisky production history, not only for the local region but for Scotland in general.This acquisition represents a jewel within the Scaent Group, and we shall do our very best to ensure the successful development and future prosperity of the Glenglassaugh distillery.” In practical terms, this means that it is likely that Glenglassaugh will be open to the public.An architect and design consultants have already been appointed to investigate the feasibility of a small visitor centre in the original warehouse building, now redundant and it is hoped that progress can be made on this development by 2009.A full report will follow in issue 72.