Raise a dram to town's whisky distillery

As the demand for whisky increased 50 years ago, so did production at the Blue Toon distillery
As the demand for whisky increased 50 years ago, so did production at the Blue Toon distillery

Believe it or not, Peterhead’s Glenugie Distillery was once one of the top producers of whisky in the area as can be seen from a story taken from the Buchan Observer back in 1967.

As the demand for whisky increased 50 years ago, so did production at the Blue Toon distillery as the facility held its own against expanding markets.

Back then the distillery was owned by Shenley Enterprises Inc, an American firm run by John Mackie, son of Buchan, and it had seen many innovations prior to that particular year.

The year’s highlight was undoubtedly the construction of a new cooperage, which it was hoped would enable the coopers at the distillery to repair their own casks.

The 18 employees who worked at the cooperage or ancillary workshops such as the joiners, engineers, fitters and transport accommodation were also provided for by way of showers and also a canteen for their lunch breaks.

The previous year a new bonded warehouse had been constructed which took the total number of warehouses on the site to ten.

It was divided up into two separate sections and was capable of storing 1,300 butts (butt=110 gals.) and 6,600 hogheads (hoghead=56 gals.) of malt whisky, whereas the other nine altogether could hold 1.5 million gallons.

Although the distillery at one time bought barley from the Buchan farmers, and produced its own malt, demands for malt to be coverted into whisky were so great that it was becoming completely uneconomical to try to produce sufficient crop.

The only solution was to bring the malt to the distillery, which in turn allowed more space for storing the actual whisky.

The distillery boasted two stills - the first, or wash still, in which alcohol was separated from its empackaging water, producing low wines which then entered the second, or spirit still.

This second distilling was a slower and even more careful process because the first and final runnings were spirit, but were too inferior a quality to be pumped straight into the store until the next charge of the spirit still, when some could be retrieved.

The two stills at Glenugie were 3,250 and 3,500 gallons capacity and were steam-heated from an oil-fired boiler, instead of the former coal fire beneath the still.

Glenugie had a filling on three days of the week, which amounted to approximately 8,000 gallons per week , with an average of 300 casks removed each month.

The 1965 output amounted to 346,343 gallons and the 1966 one to 356,988 gallons, whereas the corresponding period a century before saw 90,000 gallons.

The whisky lay at Glenugie for at least three years until it was re-dipped and re-guaged before being sent down to Strathclyde where the great bulk of it went into the firm’s ‘Long John’ brand of Scottish whisky.

The streams of Invernettie and Wellington were used in the making of the whisky and the Wellington actually was piped the last few miles to avoid pollution.

Mr A. J. Auchinachie, who took over the management of the distillery in 1966, had a long experience of distilling which stood him in good stead for managing the highly complex organisation on the 25-acre property.

Mr W. Thomson was the excise officer at Glenugie and thus rendered unnecessary the old excise law that forced distilleries to be built on low ground so that no early warning could be given of the excise man’s approach!

The distillery received thousands of visitors every year, many of them foreigners, eager to taste Scotland’s water of life in its potent form and even welcomed school children through its doors for tours.

Despite being more than 100 years old back then, the paper stated that all that remained of the good old days when the distillery relied on wind power was the old stone tower at the higher end of the building.