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The Glasgow Distillery Company was the brainchild of three men. Veterans of the drinks industry, Liam Hughes and Mike Hayward, working with accountant Ian McDougall, registered their company in 2012. Taking their name from the business behind the old Dundashill Distillery, which closed down more than 100 years before, the men took out a lease on an industrial building in the Hillington Business Park to the west of the city.
Dreaming of returning Glasgow to its once proud distilling heritage, the men and their team filled the first cask of new make spirit in March of 2015, and last year saw the long awaited arrival of their first single malt. Bottled under the 1770 label, Release No. 1 was available by ballot only, costing £100 for a 50cl bottle. Despite the rather steep price, based no doubt on the collectability of the thing and its potential for resale on the secondary market, this was an impressive first release which displayed a maturity and complexity beyond its years. With the companies social media feeds seemingly teasing an imminent second release however, this felt like an ideal time to pay them a little visit.
Fortunately, being based in the southside of Glasgow myself, a short taxi ride was all it took before I arrived at the unmarked security gate, through which apparently lay the distillery. At the Hillington Business Park you can find everything from Car Dealers and Firework Superstores to Bathroom Fitters and Central Heating traders, what few would expect to stumble across however, is Glasgow’s first malt distillery in over a century.
Nevertheless, I found it without too much difficulty, except of course, for a narrowly avoided headlong collision with a lorry after I stupidly plodded through the gate, somehow completely missing the clearly marked pedestrian walkway. An incident not only of danger to myself but also of potential harm to the poor woman manning the booth who appeared a couple of distillery visitors away from a complete cardiac crisis.
Thanks to her subtly bellowed warnings however I was able to correct my error before it was too late and was soon buzzing the door of the distillery having aged approximately 10 years in the last 30 seconds.
I was met by Sebastian Bunford-Jones, marketing manager and all round good guy, who very generously agreed to show me round. Not that there’s much showing round involved of course. The distillery doesn’t really do public tours, aside from an occasional joint venture with the Tennents Brewery. To be honest, it is not difficult to see why. I suspect it would be hard work to extend any kind of visitor experience in this ‘everything-under-one-roof’ setup past 20 minutes.
My trip was no less worthwhile however, as the distillery is not without its charms. The concrete shell of a building, complete with open ventilation ducts and hanging strip lighting only seemed to accentuate the gleaming appearance of the diminutive but perfectly formed pot stills which stood proudly in the centre of the room. It may be closer in appearance to a craft brewery in Brooklyn than it is to a picturesque scotch distillery, but the earliest whisky makers would surely still recognise the process. Indeed, what could be more traditional than finding a disused building within which to operate a set of stills?
With everything from mashing to fermenting, distilling and even coopering taking place in the same room, and the expected arrival of a second pair of stills, it seems that something has to give and plans are now underway to extend the building in order to cope with the up-scaling of the production capacity.
At a time when whisky tourism is on the rise, it may seem strange to almost entirely forego that side of the business but I will not fault a new company for choosing to concentrate solely on the quality of their product. This is no-frills distilling, where the flavour of the finished spirit is imperative. It is an attitude which should be commended and if that first release of 1770 is anything to go by, it is an approach which appears to be paying off.
Maybe I am biased because this is now my ‘local’ distillery, but there are some exciting things happening here and in my honest opinion, the 1770 single malt could become one of the brands to watch out for in the years ahead. Do yourself a favour and follow them on social media, because when the next 1770 product lands, it’s going to be well worth seeking out.
You can check out my review of 1770 Release No. 1 here.
For more on the Glasgow Distillery Company
Thanks once again to Seb for giving up his time to show me around. It was much appreciated.