Records of Fettercairn Distillery Ltd, Fettercairn

Scope and Content

  • Production records, 1955-1989;
  • Sales records, 1968-1979;
  • Plant and property records, 1973-1975;
  • Promotional and marketing records, 1965-1980s;
  • Photographs, mid 20th century-1998;
  • Illustrations, late 20th century;
  • Audio-visual records, c1990.

Administrative / Biographical History

Fettercairn Distillery was established by Sir Alexander Ramsey of Balmain in 1825 on the Fasque Estate at Nethermill, Scotland. Alongside other landowners, Ramsey had campaigned for the licensing of Scotch whisky distilling to combat illicit distilling. The Customs and Excise Act of 1823 reduced the amount of taxation placed on whisky production. This prompted Ramsey to convert a corn mill at Nethermill Farm, part of the Fasque Estate, into a distillery, the mill being well placed with an ample supply of fresh water from the Grampians. The distillery and farm were then leased to James Stewart, a local tenant who had been said to have previously worked in an illicit still. Ramsey encountered financial problems and in 1830 he sold the Fasque Estate to John Gladstone, a Scot who had made his wealth as a merchant in Liverpool. James Stewart remained tenant of the distillery until his death in 1833. The lease was then taken over by James Durie and Robert Gibb, as Gibb, Durie & Co and under this partnership the distillery thrived. Robert Gibb retired in 1844 and in 1845 James Durie reconditioned the distillery buildings, with Gladstone contributing £200 towards the project in return for increased rent. During Durie’s tenancy Fettercairn built up an extensive trade in the Scottish Lowlands, England, and overseas. The distilling industry became an important part of the rural economy, with farmers selling barley and bere, a primitive barley variety to the distillers, and distillers returning the draff to farmers who used it as cattle feed.

John Gladstone, who had been made baronet in 1846, died in 1851 leaving the Fasque Estate to his son Sir Thomas Gladstone. The same year James Durie handed over the management of the distillery to his son David Durie; it was not until 1859 that he became the tenant of Nethermill farm and the distillery, taking a nineteen-year lease and appointing Robertson, Thompson & Co, Glasgow (later named Robertson & Baxter) as agents. By 1881 the distillery employed thirteen men and by the mid 1880s the annual output was 85,000 gallons. Durie began maturing his whisky and sent large amounts to be warehoused by Robertson & Baxter in Glasgow, owing to lack of storage space at Fettercairn. In 1887 he opened negotiations with Sir Thomas Gladstone over the terms of a new lease, hoping to increase storage space. However, Gladstone was unwilling to allow construction of additional warehouses at the distillery and when Durie’s lease expired in 1888, he departed, leaving the tenancy of the distillery and farm vacant. Shortly after this a fire destroyed almost half of the distillery buildings and the distillery was silent for two years.

After the death of Sir Thomas Gladstone in 1889, his son Sir John Robert Gladstone looked for a new tenant for the distillery, however there was little interest. He began to frame alternative proposals and established the Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd in 1890, along with Alexander Lorimer who was to be the new manager of the distillery, as well as Captain William Fry, John Ronaldson, Thomas Swan, William Falconer, Robert Falconer and David Falconer. Rebuilding work began and distilling recommenced in October that year. Alexander Lorimer retired as manager in 1905 and the role was passed to William J Walker. This period was tough for the distillery, as demand for whisky declined, and the 1909 Government budget increased distillery license fees and duty. As a result, production at Fettercairn was severely cut back. In 1912 the Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd went into voluntary liquidation as investors chose to cut their losses. Sir John Gladstone then bought the stock of the Distillery from the liquidator and immediately started a new Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd with himself, John Connel King, Archibald Campbell, Hope, King and Co, James Alexander, John Craig, William H Curdie, and William Alexander Scott. They were joined by George Gould who had been promoted from clerk to distillery manager. The new company purchased the stock from Gladstone and in 1912 the distillery produced 33,361 gallons of whisky, with output in the next season being similar.

During the First World War the Government imposed harsh restrictions on the spirit trade. At the end of the war, reduced overseas and home markets and anti-drink sentiment caused a crisis in the whisky industry and in 1923 the Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd once again went into liquidation. In 1924 Gladstone leased the distillery for four years to Holders and Ross & Coulter, two Glasgow based whisky merchants and brokers who established a new Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd. After Sir John Gladstone’s death in 1926 the deepening crisis in the industry prompted Holders and Ross & Coulter to discontinue their tenancy at Fettercairn, and the Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd was liquidated in 1928. James Mann the factor of the Fasque Estate became the nominal licensee of the distillery in that year and the distillery remained silent for a number of years. In 1935 the United States import duty halved and the outlook for whisky distilling was improving. In October 1936 James Mann was approached by Joseph Hobbs, a Canadian Scot involved in the bootleg trade during prohibition. Hobbs at first withdrew his offer to buy the distillery, but eventually negotiated the sale, acquiring Fettercairn in 1938. He then restored the distillery, installing new mash tuns, and a new 20-gallon reservoir, and created a new Fettercairn Distillery Co Ltd. Hobbs’ distillery interests were amalgamated to form Associated Scottish Distillers Ltd, a subsidiary of Train & MacIntyre Ltd, themselves owned by National Distillers of America.

After the Second World War the whisky industry boomed. In 1953 Train & MacIntyre were acquired by Distillers Company Ltd and the distillery was incorporated as Fettercairn Distillery Ltd (company number: 00520164) on 31 Dec 1953 under the ownership of Tom Scott Sutherland. In 1966 the distillery was extended from two to four stills and in 1971 it was purchased by the Tomintoul-Glenlivet Distillery Co Ltd which was in turn was acquired by Whyte & Mackay in 1973, under their owners SUITS (Scottish and Universal Investments Trust Ltd). In 1989 Fettercairn opened a visitor centre to the public.

Fettercairn whisky had been mainly used for Whyte & Mackay blends, but had also a long history as a single malt. In 2009 Whyte & Mackay launched a range of Fettercairn aged variants and a pair of no-age bottlings, Fior and Fasque, named after the Fettercairn estate, were released. In 2018 Fettercairn was relaunched by Whyte & Mackay with a new range of single malts aged between 12 and 50 years old.


Arranged chronologically within record series

Access Information

Access to certain records within this collection may be restricted or closed for reasons of customer, commercial or third-party confidentiality.  Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Access is with the permission of the collection owners

Acquisition Information

  • Transfer : Whyte & Mackay Ltd : 27 Mar 2020 : GB 248 UGD 224
  • Deposit : Whyte & Mackay Ltd : 14 Dec 2015 : ACCN 4004
  • Deposit : Whyte & Mackay Ltd : Sept 2019 : ACCN 4304

Other Finding Aids

See also University of Glasgow Collections

Digital file level list available in the searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies of this material

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email:

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard ASC procedures

Custodial History

Received directly from creator


Accruals are possible

Related Material

  • GB 248 UGC 234: Records of Whyte & Mackay Ltd;
  • GB 248 UGC 237: Records of The Tomintoul Glenlivet Distillery Ltd;
  • GB 248 UGC 238: Records of Hay & Macleod Ltd
  • GB 248 UGC 250: Records of Sutherland Buchanan Ltd.

Location of Originals

This material is original