Lochside distillery

Lochside_distillery_05Lochside produced outstanding whisky and the distillery building itself was one of the most striking in Scotland. Yet by the time this book is published the building may well have been flattened and the whisky gone without trace, except among a few aficionados who have managed to hoard a few bottles of Lochside single malt.

Lochside was originally built as brewery back in the 1890s in the towering Germanic Brauhaus style of the era. It stood on the site of an earlier brewery which is said to have dated back in the 1700s and which drew its water from artesian wells under the site. The new brewery ( later distillery) building covered several acres beside the Montrose Basin and in its heydays, its sheer cream-washed walls and stinking tower made it the most visible landmark for mils around.

Lochside_distillery_04In its years as a brewery, it was the one location outside Newcastle to produce Newcastle Brown Ale and the brewery’s two sea freighters weekly plied the North Sea from Montrose to the Tyne carrying thousands of gallons of the stuff southwards. The brewery, known to everyone as ‘Deuchar’s after the family who ran it for many years, eventually closed in the 1950s. In 1956 it was bought by the ubiquitous Joseph Hobbs, who had long cut his links with Associated Scottish Distilleries and now ran the Ben Nevis distillery at Fot William. Hobbs had also acquired the name and trade marks of Glenmavis Distillery at Bathgate (see under Glenmavis), which had stood unused for nearly 40 years after the death around 1910 of the redoubtable John MacNab.

Hobbs combined the tow ventures and converted the plant to distilling (though the vast copper-lined beer-brewing vats were left untouched), complete with four post stills and 67-foot-high (21m) Coffey Still. For a time Lochside was one of a handful of « combined » distilleries that made malt and grain. Large, bleak modern warehouses sprouted on greenfield site across the road. After Joe Hobbs died in 1964, his son – also Joe- ran the distillery for nearly a decade, much of it spent seeking a potentiel buyer.

Lochside_distillery_03It was acquired in 1973 by the Spanish firm Distilleries y Crianza of Madrid, who make Spain’s mast palatable whisky, DYC (pronounced ‘Deek ‘) who were seeking a good source of Scotch malt to blend with their home-produced spirits. DYC mothballed the Coffey still and focused all production on malt whisky. For nigh on 20 years, Lochside was one of Scotland’s most industrious distilleries. It produced malt whisky for Spain and for the blenders and also tatted and bottled various whiskies on site on its own production line.

However, Lochside became a victim of rationalisation that swept the world drinks industry  in the late 1980s ans early 1990s. DYC were acquired by Domecq, the sherry group, which in turn was taken over by the Canadian firm Hiram Walker and eventually by Allied Distillers. As the result, Allied finished up with far larger portfolio of distilleries than they could use. Several of these distilleries were put up for sale and this which could not be sold as going concernes were offered to developers.

In such circumstances, it was perhaps inevitable that Lochside should draw the short straw. Its delicate malt, probably among the best in Scotland, was relatively unknown even in malt-drinking circles. The plant, although  good enough in 1960s, was obsolescent. It did not stand illustrious Speyside but unfashionable Montrose. Its distilling pedigree went back barely 35 years. Lastly, it stood on a good urban site slap beside two main roads and with several acres of lans to develop. Once the place was advertised, potential bidders were soon on the scene.

view from the steet

view from the steet

It took almost five years after distilling ceased in April 1992 for all casks in bond to be moved to Spain or otherwise disposed of. A skeleton staff under manager Charles Sharpe stayed on to oversee all the necessary work but all staff bar the manager departed in late 1996. The site was handed to developers in February 1997 and demolition work was due start soon after. Local conservationists campaigned to have the great Brauhaus tower preserved, only to find it did not even have listed status.

During its final years the distillery disposed of several thousand cases of whisky, both Lochside malt and the distillery’s owen blend, Sandy Macnab, which had been bottled on site, largely for export. The were bought by local and enthusiast buyers. Many who have sampled Sandy Macnab, especially at export strength, rate it as one of the best blends to come out of Scotland.

From the book  « Scotch Missed «  Scotland’s Lost Distilleries » by Brian Townsend ISBN 1-897784-97-X