The Magical History of the Great Brora Distillery
    Clynelish resumes production in November and the malt gets highly sought after by blenders. The post-war market is booming and the distillery is working at full steam.
      The two stills are converted from direct coal heating to internal steam heating. A half of the coal - the boiler is still heated with coal - is still coming from Brora – despite its poor quality, as Alfred Barnard wrote 75 years earlier – and the other half from the Lowlands.
Plenty of other labels from the 1950's and 1960's here.
      The water wheel and the steam engine are replaced with electric power and the floor maltings are used for the last time. Which makes me think that I’d love to know whether the stellar 1965 Clynelishes bottled by Cadenhead’s or Signatory ten or fifteen years ago were made out of malted barley ‘made at Clynelish’ or not.
    Indeed, 1965 is ‘the year’ of the independent bottlers, as both Cadenhead, with for example a ‘black dumpy’ 1965/1985 bottled at 46%, a similar 1965/1989 bottled at 49.4% and several bottlings for Italy (23 and 24yo cask strength for Sestante/Nibada or 24yo 1965/1989 for Mainardi with roughly the same ‘yellow brick’ label as the official 14yo for the Royal Marine Hotel of Brora – delicious: 93 points) and Signatory with a 28yo bottled in 1993 (butt #666 – just as delicious: 93 points) and a 29yo bottled one year later (butt #667) seem to have put their hands on some stunning casks.
      The last delivery of coal is made on November 4th, and the boiler is then converted to oil burning.

    In order to be able to keep with the demand, a second, modern distillery is being built on an adjacent site, with 6 stills that have been copied from the old ones. The old distillery is still working.

Below, a draft for the new distillery by Scottish Malt Distillers' architect (first floor only).


    The new distillery, now named ‘Clynelish’ so that it can benefit from the name’s huge reputation, is completed and starts distilling in June. The old distillery is closed in may 1968.

    Yet, the summer of 1968 is very dry on Islay, which curtails the mashing programme. The high temperatures affect the malting, and Port Ellen distillery runs out of water. As a result, it is feared that the 'yield' of all D.C.L. distilleries on Islay would fall short of the target by no less than 40,000 proof gallons. That would be a big problem as Johnnie Walker's sales are growing fast, and Johnnie Walker has a lot of Islay malts in it's 'recipes'.

    D.C.L. starts to wonder whether it would be possible to produce a heavily peated malt at other distilleries on the mainland, such as Clynelish. Some voices within D.C.L. suggest, in October, that the short-fall in the production on Islay could be reduced by installing new production facilities. Yet, it is decided that before considering any increase in facilities on the island, the possibility of producing an Islay type malt on the mainland, where the costs would be lower, should be examined.

    From November 1968 on, D.C.L. discusses the peat level of the whisky to be produced and some trials are being made at Port Dundas, while some are looking for an available distillery. Extended kilning finally produces a satisfactory result and the old Clynelish distillery is chosen, with plans to start mashing in January 1969. An additional spirit vat is installed and the required labour force is engaged.

    Mashing starts on December 28, using malt made at Ord Maltings...