Garnheath was a most unusual distillery. Its lifespan of 21 years was among the shortest, its location in Airdrie not noted for its distilling pedigree. Most unusually, it was not some ramshackle 19th century satanic mill but a state-of-the-art modern distillery opened in 1965 and unceremoniously closed and demolished in the 1980s. Publicker Industries of Philadelphia launched the Inver House whisky brand in the USA in 1956. It was a very successful and the firm decided to establish its own grain and malt distillery in Scotland in 1964. It bought and converted the dished Moffat Paper Mills at Airdrie into Garnheath (grain) and Glen Flager and Killyloch (malt) distilleries within one large complex. In addition, there were 32 warehouses, a cooperage plus blending and bottling plants claimed, became the largest commercial malting plant in Europe.
However, after the great 1960s boom came more adverse and less-settled times. Killyloch production stopped in the early 1970s, Glen Flager followed suit 10years later. Moffat Malting were sold to Associated British Maltsters in 1978 and Inver House bought Bladnoch in Wigtownshire in 1973 only to sell it to Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd in 1983. It also bought and sold the Loch Lomond distillery at Alexandria in the mid-1980s to Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd.
Inver House was badly hit by grain-spirit overcapacity and the general downturn of the early 1980s – but more than any other company it took radical steps to tackle its problems. Glenflagler was closed in July 1985, Garnheath in July 1986. In January 1988 there was management buy-out by the four UK directors for £8.2million and Garnheath distillery was demolished that same year. The malting have also disappeared as has the bottling plant- though there are now 37 warehouses.
Despite these setbacks, Inver House is thriving at Airdrie, marketing a dozen products including Catto’s whisky and has won Queen’s Awards for exports. In 1989 it acquired Knockdhu distillery near Keith and Speyburn at Rothes in 1992. But of the vast Garnheath distillery, hardly a vestige remains, though the 37 dark warehouses fill an entire hillside.
From the book « Scotch Missed « Scotland’s Lost Distilleries » by Brian Townsend ISBN 1-897784-97-X