Minutes of Islay Distillery Co Ltd

Scope and Content

Includes balance sheets.

Administrative / Biographical History

Islay Distillery Co was established to construct a new distillery in the Sound of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland. The partners of this new company were James Ford of William Ford & Sons, tea, wine and spirit merchants of Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland; James Watson Greenlees, a partner in McMurchy & Ralston of Campbeltown, Argyll & Bute, and William A Robertson of Robertson & Baxter, wholesale whisky merchants, Glasgow. Land was purchased in 1880, and construction commenced of the Bunnahabhain distillery the following year with projected production volume of 200,000 gallons a year.

In 1882, the company was incorporated as Islay Distillery Co Ltd with a share capital of £32,000. During 1882, the Bunnahabhain distillery opened, though full production was not achieved until January 1883. The directors of the Islay Distillery Co Ltd decided to sell their whisky wholesale only, principally for blending and Robertson & Baxter were appointed as their agents for its sale. Initially, Islay Distillery Co Ltd was very profitable, however, the success of the first eighteen months was not sustained during 1886-1887. These years saw a depression of the economy as a whole, which effected the whisky industry and as a consequence the Islay Distillery Co Ltd saw its production slashed and its profits more than halved.

In 1887, with reduced profits and in the face of competition from other distillers, the company decided to amalgamate their business with William Grant & Co, owners of the Glenrothes distillery, Rothes, Moray, Scotland, to form the Highland Distilleries Co Ltd. Despite the change of ownership there was little change in the day to day running of the Bunnahabhain distillery. The whisky continued to be used almost entirely for blending. In 1930, the decision was taken to close Bunnahabhain as the recession deepened and unemployment accelerated within all industries but reopened in 1937. In 1963, a second pair of stills were added and it continued to produce whisky for blending, mainly in for the Famous Grouse and Black Bottle blends, until the late 1970s when the 12-year-old single malt whisky was launched under the Bunnahabhain brand. In 2003, the distillery was still producing as a part of Highland Distillers Group Ltd, the successor company to Highland Distilleries Co Ltd.

Source: Moss, Michael, "Quality in a Century of Uncertainty - A Hundred Years of Highland Distillers Co Ltd", (unpublished manuscript, UGD 358-1-1-11)

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