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Glasgow has a long and proud industrial history and whisky, along with tobacco and shipbuilding, has played a significant role in the story. At one time there were as many as 40 businesses; distillers, brokers, blenders and bottlers operating within the city boundaries. Sadly however, the distilleries have all but disappeared from the landscape over the years with only the Strathclyde grain distillery remaining in production throughout.
The situation finally improved with the opening of the Glasgow Distillery in 2014 and now, the Clydeside will continue the industry’s revival on the very banks of the river that proved its lifeblood for so many years. The importance of the Clyde to Industrial Age Glasgow simply cannot be overstated with the rivers many shipyards and docks bringing employment and trade to the city in great numbers. During the industry peak of the 1900s, a fifth of the worlds ships were constructed in Glasgow but by the 1980’s, much of it had disappeared, leaving behind a city struggling for an identity and rife with poverty and unemployment.
At the very heart of the city’s vast river industry stood the Queens dock, built in 1877 by one John Morrison of Morrison & Mason. Access to the dock was granted through a gate, raised and lowered using hydraulic power generated by the adjoining Pumphouse. As the industry sank into decline however, the dock fell into disrepair and the old Pumphouse lay deserted.
Eventually the Queens Dock would be filled in to form the site of the Scottish Exhibition Centre while the Pumphouse spent a few years as a restaurant, among other things, before it was purchased in 2011 by Tim Morrison, owner of A.D. Rattray and Grandson of Queens Dock builder John. Tim saw in the Pumphouse an opportunity to bring whisky production back to the banks of the Clyde and in November of 2017, that dream became reality as spirit finally ran from the stills, heralding a bright new era for this once derelict section of river.
The distillery opened its doors to the public in late November and I couldn’t wait to pay a visit… The visitor centre houses an impressive bottle shop, welcoming cafe and an educational walkthrough which relays the story, not only of the local whisky industry but also of the dock, giving the visitor a real understanding of the building’s place in the city’s history.
The whole project has been designed to perfection with newer sections in stark contrast to the stonework of the original Pumphouse, while the dark glass of the still-house, impressive even from the outside, beautifully mirrors the dark sheen of the Clyde as it flows sluggishly by.
Inside the distillery proper, things are rather more functional, though the stunning still-room acts as a focal point for the whole affair, with expansive views of the river that encourage you to stare for a while and dream of the ships which must have swarmed here all those years ago. I found myself forced to subdue a ripple of excitement at the sight of new make flowing through the spirit safe – even five years ago, the very notion of a new distillery in the heart of my hometown would have seemed outlandish and totally unrealistic yet here we are, in 2017, with two Glasgow malts on the way and plans for a third already announced.
Alas however, the Clydeside single malt remains some years away as yet, though fortunately the owners sister business can certainly step in to offer up a tasty dram in the meantime.
Cask Islay is a single malt from an undisclosed Islay distillery that has been bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.
Smell: Vanilla, Lemon & Honey with Aromatic Peat Smoke & Barbecue.
Taste: Vanilla, Toffee, Biscuit, Lemon and a touch of Woody Spice. Undercurrent of soft Peat Smoke throughout.
Value for Money: Very affordable at £30 per bottle.
A very pleasant dram at the budget end of the market. Sure, an age statement would be nice, but the decision to bottle at 46% has helped add that little extra depth to the malts character. Recognisably an Islay of course, but subtler and more rounded than some – certainly not as overtly smokey as the distilleries in the south of the island and perhaps a nice introduction, at a sensible price, to the world of peated whisky.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.