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Distilling in Aberdeen

Although distilling has been practised around the world in one form or another for around 3,000 years – the evidence of any distillation happening in Aberdeen is less obvious.

There are signs of brewing activity, for example you may remember the Granary pub (on Holburn Street, now called The Foundry) which was once the granary (malt house) for the Union Glen distillery only a few meters down the hill.

It is only from the late 1700’s that we have found any official record of distilling in Aberdeen. Unofficially, i.e. illegally, these were not the only distilleries in existence as many whisky distilleries could be found hidden in the hills beyond Aberdeen.

The oldest distillery in the city was the Gilcomston Distillery off of Rosemount viaduct.

Here are the others, along with their years of operation.

Gilcomston Distillery

1751-1763

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Aberdeen Distillery

 

1794-1798

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenburnie Distillery

 

 

1816

 

 

 

1857

 

 

 

Gairn Mews Distillery

?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bon-Accord Distillery (Union Glen)

 

 

 

1820

 

 

 

1904

 

 

Devana Distillery

 

 

 

 

 

1837

 

 

1909

 

Strathdee Distillery

 

 

 

 

1821

 

 

 

 

1941

City of Aberdeen Distillery

2019 - Present day

 

Until the 1820’s, most Whisky was made clandestinely in the hills of Scotland – beyond the reach of the exciseman. The government encouraged breweries to open distilleries at this time in an effort to legalise and regulate the industry. That is why most of the Aberdeen distilleries were created around that time.

The Gairn Mews distillery was noted on an old map in what is now called Gairn Mews – that street did not exist at the time and we are still researching this distillery.

The Devanha distillery operated from what is now the Bon-Accord glass building on Riverside Drive – some may remember passing this on the train South of Aberdeen and seeing the “Distillery” wording on the roof. The distillery itself stopped production early in the 1900’s. There was also a Devanha Brewery closer to Bank Street. It stopped shortly afterwards but continued bottling beer for many years. It has mostly been replaced by housing but traces of the brewery remain to this day.

The Strathdee Distillery was the last distillery to close in Aberdeen – in 1941. It has been written about in many Whisky guides – e.g. Scotch Missed: The Original Guide to the Lost Distilleries of Scotland By Brian Townsend.

There is no trace of the distillery today and it can be difficult to find the site given it was on Cuperstone Place – a street name that has been reused. The original Cuperstone Place became Great Western Road during the 1800’s and the Strathdee distillery was situated just across from the Nellfield Road junction on today’s Great Western Road.

The distilleries closed for a multitude of reasons: changing land use, fire, war, and food rationing. When we approached the authorities in order to ensure the distillery would be legal, there was no local knowledge on how this could be achieved as no one had set up a real distillery in the city for so long.

The City of Aberdeen Distillery is the first distillery distilling spirit in commercial quantities located within Aberdeen City since the Strathdee Distillery closed in 1941. After a 79-year pause – Aberdeen is once again proudly distilling its own spirits.