Photograph: Rene Just Nielsen

Glen Keith Distillery

Glen Keith was the first distillery to be created in the 20th Century. Glen Keith distillery is a recent operation in historical terms, being a meal-mill converted in 1958 to its present distilling function. It was the first new malt-distilling operation mounted (if not the first distillery actually built) in Scotland since the Apache-charge of construction in the 1890s and there were other innovations later on. The country’s first gas-fired still was set up in 1970 and the first microprocessor for controlling aspects of production was installed 10 years later. The distillery lies on a bank of the River Isla just across from its delightful sister distillery, Strathisla.

Chivas Brothers made an excellent job of sympathetically converting the old grain mill, much of whose original fabric had already been demolished before they took it over. They even put a token pagoda head atop a tower but, since kilns tended not to have windows, it does look a little like a Daliesque campanile. Glen Keith looks the more compact for its not having any warehouses and spirit is taken to company warehouses just outside the town. The distillery has an intact Saladin Box malting system, though it has not been used since 1976.

Glen Keith started with a set of three stills in order to triple-distil its spirit. This was because very light, smooth and understated distillate was wanted for blending. This was discontinued in 1970 when two more stills were added and the distillery went over to double-distillation, leaving one of the stills silent. In 1983 a sixth was added.

About the distillery

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