"Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland...", Alfred Barnard, 1885

"O Thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink", from Scotch Drink, by Robert Burns

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kinloch Distillery, Campbeltown

“After living at Campbeltown a week we began to feel quite at home, our daily perambulations in the “spiritual town” had brought us in contact with many of the distillers, who by their courtesy, kindness and hospitality, contributed to our comfort and pleasure, and rendered our prolonged stay most agreeable.”
Barnard’s opening comment on the day of his visit to Kinloch Distillery, a sentiment I can also apply to my few days in the town.  Barnard also takes this opportunity to comment a little more on various aspects of the town and its history.

He begins by describing the Campbeltown Cross, a granite cross eleven feet tall, ornately carved with Celtic designs and religious symbols and situated, in his time, outside the Town House just down from the White Hart Hotel.  During WWII it was removed (from the middle of Main Street) in case it was damaged by traffic during the blackout and relocated in 1945 to the main square near the quay.

Down by the quay Barnard notes the “large cargoes of barley being transferred from the steamers to the distillers’ carts” and he is then forced into a detour while crossing Kinloch Park due to it being covered in drying fishing nets as described in an earlier post.  This route suggests that he visited another distillery on the other side of the park first, or perhaps just enjoyed a stroll along the esplanade and then tried to cut back across to the distillery.

The distillery buildings started out as Malt Houses “supplying malt to the numerous smugglers” but were turned into a licensed distillery in 1823, the second recognised distillery in town.  The firm of Lamb, Colvill & Co were one of the earliest distillers in Campbeltown and Kinloch was another of the few distilleries that remained in the same firm for most of its operating life.

Barnard records that the distillery was recently enlarged and this can be seen by comparing maps from 1865 and 1900.  The considerable expansion was permitted by reclamation of the mussel ebb against which the original buildings were located.  The premises now aligned with the new Kinloch Road that frames the south side of the park, giving the distillery a frontage to the park of over 400 feet.  Barnard also remarks that further additions are being made on adjoining land recently acquired.

His facts and figures are all fairly standard except that he mentions four warehouses yet only gives sizes for three, and seems to get length and width mixed up as he goes through them.  Perhaps this was when his host had brought out the Kinloch Special Reserve for a sample, a possibility bolstered by Barnard then quoting from Burns’ poem ‘Third Epistle To J. Lapraik’ from 1785, which was the equivalent of the sentimental, usually slurred, ‘you're ma best mate, so ye are’ after partaking of a dram too many:

Your friendship, Sir, I winna quat it,
An' if ye mak' objections at it,
Then hand in neive some day we'll knot it,
An' witness take,
An' when wi' usquabae we've wat it
It winna break.

The distillery went from strength to strength until being taken over by West Highland Malt Distilleries in 1919.  As with the other WHMD distilleries it closed in 1923 but here the story takes a twist.  Duncan MacCallum, mentioned in my last post on Glen Nevis, had sold that distillery in 1896 to Stewart Galbraith & Co who then sold it on to WHMD in 1919.  In 1923 MacCallum decided to buy Kinloch from WHMD rather than Glen Nevis.  Perhaps Glen Nevis had been run down in the interim, while Kinloch had been expanding, or perhaps he just didn’t fancy going back to a venture he had already owned twice before.

Kinloch Distillery site redevelopment
Regardless of reason, Kinloch was not to last much longer in the turbulence of the 1920s.  The last cask was filled on 6 April 1926 and in a letter to the Town Council in 1928, MacCallum gifted the land to the town for new housing (Stirk, 2005).  In an early example of recycling he also mentioned that the stone in the buildings he was to demolish was of excellent quality suitable for the new development.

In a sad end to this story, Duncan MacCallum never saw his gift being used as he drowned in Crosshills Loch above the town in December 1930, at the grand age of 83.  In his memory MacCallum Street now connects Longrow with Kinloch Park beside the site.  Park Square was eventually built on the site in the 1930s but has recently been demolished, the site being redeveloped again when I visited.