Tippling Point | The story of how GlenDronach became an iconic drink 

GlenDronach obtained its official licence in 1823, quite early in a country where illegal hooch was the norm for centuries. It was second only to Glenlivet, that supreme Scotch expression, in obtaining official permission to distill whisky.

November 28, 2020 / 12:53 PM IST

James Allardice was dejected. The young man realized that selling his wares was an uphill task. Going by the lukewarm reception he had been getting from Edinburgh, his product, GlenDronach whisky was doomed. "We already have our stocks for the season," the landlords said, “but we’ll bear you in mind for next year.”

It was way back in 1826, James Allardice who inherited Boynsmill Estate, located near Forgue, a sleepy town in Aberdeenshire, joined hands with a few local farmers to set up a distillery. They needn't have to think hard for a name, for the river that the still house now straddles across not only provided the distillery with good water, but also generously lent its name to the new whisky.

GlenDronach obtained its official licence in 1823, quite early in a country where illegal hooch was the norm for centuries. It was second only to Glenlivet, that supreme Scotch expression, in obtaining official permission to distill whisky. In Glen house, the grant country house situated inside the GlenDronach,  James Allardice sat with his new partners devising innovative plans to take their venture into untrodden terrains.

manu remakant logo the-tippling-point-logo1-RThey all boiled down to the typical question businessmen have always asked themselves - How would they sell their stock?

A visit to Edinburgh devastated the young man. James could sell only a trickle of the wares he carried along. It was when he almost gave up the mission that two young ladies of the night accosted James and requested him to take them down for a drink. No, he apologized, he had his own poison -  Guid GlenDronach - a Scotch that he made from his own distillery. Would they care for a sip? That night he made a good time sharing his cup of woes and of course the amber liquid from his distillery. That was the turning point.


The following morning, word of mouth spread, thanks to the ladies of the night who came back with their friends. Do you have another bottle to spare?

James was packing his bags to return to his distillery dispirited but the sudden turn of events stood at his door, arms akimbo, with a smug smile. Everyone in town now wanted to know why women are making such fuss over a new drink, they hadn't ever heard of. In the local pubs, people came in and began to ask the whisky by name.

GlenDronach had arrived!

Though James Allardice could pull off that initial magic with the help of those ladies of dubious reputation, he could not follow it up consistently. A devastating fire in 1837 that destroyed the whole site was one of the causes that sealed his doom. In 1842 James was completely broke, declared bankrupt.


Now he had no other way but to hand over the share of the company. GlenDronach has changed hands many times ever since. When William Teacher & Sons acquired it in 1960, the number of stills was increased from two to four. GlenDronach now became one of the major components in Teacher's blended whisky. It was the last Scotch whisky to switch from the traditional coal fired stills to steam heat.

Tomorrow if you plan to visit the distillery sometime in your life don't forget to walk into its legendary Glen house. Spend a night if they allow it. You'd meet the Spanish lady if you're really lucky.

It was in the 1970s when one of the shipments of Oloroso sherry casks were being unloaded, someone spotted a stowaway hiding in an empty cask, dressed in scarlet and black. Before she was asked about her whereabouts the young, small and dark girl took to her feet and vamoosed. Since then, there have been many reports of sightings of a beautiful exotic woman wandering in different parts of the distillery. Her favourite spot being the Glen house. Still interested in that stay? (But there are people who swear you needn't have to spend a night in Glen house; a couple of GlenDronach would do the job).

Today in Scotland GlenDronach distillery is the second oldest legal whisky producer. Its productions have won many accolades and prizes in whisky circuits and competitions around the world.

Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog — A Cup of Kavitha — introducing world poetry to Malayalis. The views expressed here are personal.
Manu Remakant
first published: Nov 28, 2020 12:47 pm

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