Dailuaine Distillery – Farmers and whisky and famous names

Just how many of our Scottish distilleries were founded, set up by farmers?

Dailuaine is a single malt whisky distillery in Charlestown-of-Aberlour, Strathspey, Scotland. Diageo owned these days. 3 wash stills (18.700 litre), 3 spirit stills (20.500 litre), capacity: 3,370,000 litres

It was founded in 1853 by farmer William MacKenzie in a hollow by the Carron Burn. The name he chose means ‘the green vale’ in Gaelic. In 1863 The Strathspey Railway arrived, bringing the Dailuaine nectar to the world. Two years later William MacKenzie died and the distillery was let for a number of years to James Fleming. 1884 – Thomas Mackenzie sets out to modernise the distillery. Five years later it is one of the biggest in the highlands in terms of production. In 1889 it becomes the first Scottish distillery to be fitted with architect Charles Doig’s pagoda roof. Note, the photo shown was taken by my pal Ian fae Wick, it shows Balblair Distillery.

I detour here a wee while … Charles Chree Doig, the man responsible who designed the Chinese-style, kiln pagoda so many distilleries have today, is regarded as a symbol of Scotch whisky distilling throughout the world. Doig was born on a farm (farmers again) in 1855, the son of a Kirriemuir agricultural labourer. When he was 25, Doig married Margaret Isabella Dick, in 1882 the family moved to Elgin, where Doig joined the practice of a land surveyor named Harbourne Marius Strachan Mackay. Specialising in distilling projects, he ran his own practice by 1890, designing the stills and other equipment to fit into them. In total, he is credited with involvement in no fewer than 56 distilleries. Doig’s creation came about at a site meeting at Dailuaine Distillery on 3 May 1889. Sadly, Doig’s original pagoda head at Dailuaine was destroyed by fire in 1917. As a wee end  this detour, can I say, I have stayed at Westfield House in Elgin, Doig’s hoose! Macleans have lived there since 1862, and there are 500 peaceful acres of farmland.

Back to Dailuaine … MacKenzie & Co converted to a new company Dailuaine-Glenlivet Distillery Ltd in 1891. The distillery merged again to form Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Ltd. Thomas MacKenzie had a substantial interest in Talisker Distillery and so becomes chairman and MD of the new company. Thomas MacKenzie died in 1915 and the business was bought by a consortium of Buchanan, Dewar and John Walker and sons. The distillery expanded in 1960 from four to six stills and over the next five years the stillhouse is modernised. Recently I delved into the heart of this distillery with my friend Ingvar Ronde.  Check out https://whiskytours.scot/diageo-distilleries

We went to see Archie, ex Royal Marine and not the typical manager for a Diageo distillery.   He was forthcoming, very humorous, said his piece and made me laugh every few minutes. A great guided tour of all areas even those not now used, it is always good when someone at a distillery says “I know your face”, happy worker in the still room told me this, he knows me from his earlier job at The Speyside Cooperage, as a Cooper, nice to be recognised eh!  Like his pal Andrew, he gave us a dram and a long chat in his office to end the tour.  Not the most good looking distillery but a great informative and refreshing tour,  it was never intended to be on the Speyside visitor trail, I was lucky. To end this piece of drivel, think on this … how many famous whisky names have been involved with this distillery? Set up by a farmer, now run (manager) by an ex Royal Marine! And while we are at it, just how many distilleries were designed, built and run by farmers?  Answers please to (grandson of an Irish farmer) paul@mcleanscotland.com