which later would be renamed Brora was initially called
Clynelish and was founded in 1819 by the Marquis of
Stafford, later the first Duke of Sunderland. The
marquis was one of the architects behind the
‘clearances’ during which tens of thousands of tenants
were evicted from their highland farms. The land was
needed for sheep farming to supply the booming wool
industry. Many of the evicted tenants moved out to the
coastal areas and these families had a hard time making
their living and many of them soon started to illegally
distil whisky to boost their income. In an attempt to
stem this spreading illegal activity, the marquis built
the Clynelish distillery and licensed it so that the
coastal farmers would have a legal market for their
After a few changes of licensees the distillery was
finally sold in 1896 to a Glasgow-based blending company
named James Ainslie & Co. When the blending company went
bankrupt in 1912 the distillery was acquired by a
company jointly owned by a Frenchman named John Risk and
the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL). Risk sold his share to
DCL in 1925.
In 1967 a new distillery was built alongside the
original distillery. The new distillery was named
Clynelish B and the original distillery was called
Clynelish A. Clynelish A was closed in 1968 but was
reopened shortly afterwards because of an increased
demand for whisky by the blending industry. The ‘new’
whisky was produced much smokier than its predecessor.
Because of the dissimilarities of the whiskies from
Clynelish A and B Customs and Excise demanded that the
distilleries should be run as separate entities. As a
result the old distillery, Clynelish A, was closed and
reopened in 1975 under the name of Brora Distillery.
Brora Distillery was closed in 1983 due to the recession
and today its buildings are used as warehouses and as a
visitor centre for its still active sister –the
Clynelish Distillery is currently owned by Diageo and
their single malt whisky is available in an official
bottling as a 14 year old and in the Rare Malts series
as a 23 year old. The distillery receives many visitors
during the summer due to its close proximity to popular
golf courses and loch and river game fishing. Much of
the whisky produced at Clynelish is used in the Johnnie
Walker Gold Blend 18 year old.
Clynelish 14 yo 46%
Clynelish 1974 23 yo 59,1% Rare
Clynelish 14 yo 43% Flora & Fauna
Clynelish 1972 30 yo "Mission Series" 46%
The distillery ran on steam as late as in the mid-1960s.
Slightly peated, salt,
malty and fruity.
their water from the Clynemilton Burn. It was formerly
claimed that the water ran over a gold vein which added
a unique character to the water. The barley is
exclusively grown in Scotland and is lightly smoked to 4
ppm at Glen Ord Maltings. The recently installed mash
tun holds 12.5 tons and is made from stainless steel.
They use eight washbacks which were all built in 1967.
The six stills all have short wide necks and used to be
heated with coal until the mid 1960s when thay were
converted to being internally steam heated.
The whisky is filled into sherry and bourbon casks and
the single malt whisky casks are stored in three on site
dunnage warehouses whereas the whisky intended for the
blended industry is shipped to Diageo’s central storage
facilities in Scotland. Bottling is done in Leven, Fife.
The visitor centre is open Easter-September
Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, October Monday-Friday 11am.4pm.
Visits may be arranged between November and Easter after
Guided tours begin on the hour; admission is £4 and is
refundable upon purchase in the gift shop. There is no
restaurant or café on site but several restaurants may
be found in the nearby town of Brora.
Did you find this text particularly interesting? Is
there something you miss? Do you wish to read more about some other
topic, a particular distillery, whiskey or whisky? Drop us a line! We at
The Whisky Guide always strive to improve our service, and we welcome
your thoughts and comments.