The distillery is not open to the public but it is in Diageo’s Classic Malts range - anyone with an old style Classic Malts journal would need to get theirs stamped here to complete it. Although this is no longer a requirement in the new journal, as a long time member of the Friends of the Classic Malts I was keen to attend to this small detail and the manager was also very helpful with information on the history and development of the distillery, some of which is included below.
|Glen Elgin Distillery|
Production started on 1 May 1900 but lasted only 5 months before the distillery closed later that year and was then sold at auction for a heavy loss early in 1901. There were a couple of further changes in ownership and a few more silent years before it was bought by DCL subsidiary Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd in 1936 and from there ultimately into current owners Diageo. The licence is now held by another subsidiary, White Horse Distillers, and some of the production is an important part of the White Horse blended whisky, more on which later.
|White Horse sign at Glen Elgin|
Glen Elgin must have one of the highest ratios of washback to still size of any distillery in
|Glen Elgin worm tubs|
|Glen Elgin warehouses|
|White Horse Close, Edinburgh|
The buildings around the close were renovated in 1964, the same year as Glen Elgin was rebuilt, and they are now mostly brick and harl replicas incorporating sections of the original (RCAHMS). The archways for the original stables have been reflected in the design at the rear of the building but otherwise there is no evidence of the old coaching inn.
|Old stables at White Horse Inn|
There is now a White Horse Bar further up Canongate which I remembered from some years ago as a traditional wee Scots howff. It was refurbished a year or two ago and is now a comfortable and relaxing place to spend an hour away from the January cold and sleet. I stopped by to see if they knew about the history of the whisky and while I was there I tried a wee nip of … something else. Sadly they had run out of White Horse which was a real shame as I don’t recall trying it before. Still, the barman was friendly and knew a fair bit about the history, and there were posters on the walls recording the story of the whisky to keep me amused while sipping my dram.
One poster carried some apocryphal entries from a shepherd’s diary that recorded his reasons for dramming White Horse regularly over the course of a week, including “to wash awa’ the effects of a dry sermon; to wet ma’ lips for dog whistling; mair dog whistling; sundry dog whistling; and “on a wet mornin’, there being some holes in my plaid [kilt]”. Another one records that in 1754 the coach for
I wish you a permit from God and a large drap o’ whisky on all your travels in the year ahead.
1 Equivalent to c8.75 kilos according to the Tron Measure, the standard measure of
adopted in 1661, or only 6.5 kilos if recorded under the imperial weight system. Edinburgh