Records of Mackenzie Bros, Dalmore Ltd, whisky distillers, Dalmore, Highland, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Bond books 1878-1956
  • Stock books 1896-1954
  • Sales records 1905-1951
  • Cask books 1895-1941
  • Cash books 1924-1951
  • Journals 1902-1938
  • Minutes 1927-1959
  • Ledgers 1901-1911
  • Private ledgers 1896-1921
  • Draft books 1885-1951
  • Invoice books 1903-1951
  • Export orders 1900-1923
  • Letterbooks 1876-1925
  • Building records 1891-1900
  • Insurance records 1900-1936
  • Miscellaneous financial and production records 1868-1973
  • Memorandum and articles of association 1924-1960
  • Records relating to the Tomintoul-Glenlivit distillery 1964
  • Records relating to the Fettercairn Distillery 1968-1975

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Matheson, a partner in the Hong Kong trading house of  Jardine, Matheson & Co founded the Dalmore Distillery in  1839 at Dalmore, Highland, Scotland. In its early years, the distillery was leased to the members of the Sutherland family, however, in  1867  Andrew Mackenzie took over the lease. Andrew Mackenzie formed a partnership with his brother Charles as  Mackenzie Bros, and they set about trying to improve the dilapidated distillery. By the end of their first season in March  1868 they had produced almost 16,380 gallons of whisky at a cost of £2,812. The brothers worked closely with Matheson to create a market for their whiskies, particularly in the Far East and Australia. In the early  1870s , they could proudly claim that Dalmore was the first malt whisky to be exported to Australia and this success led to the expansion of the distillery. In  1874  a second still house with two stills was added and the Mackenzie brothers expected to find a market for this increase of production in Australia and the Far East.

However, the economies of Australia and New Zealand during  1877  were faltering and this slump spread to the British market in  1878 . The slump intensified in the following year and continued for the next three years. It was during these hard times that the third Mackenzie brother joined the partnership, William Mackenzie. The whisky industry recovered more quickly from the recession than much of Scottish industry due to the devastation of the brandy vineyards in Charante, France, by the phylloxera aphid. Wine merchants denied supplies of brandy began to buy whisky as a replacement. Despite this apparent recovery there was another downturn in the economy between  1884-1886 , and Dalmore's production was slashed by 20,000 gallons. A further blow came in  1887 when their agents in Australia ran into financial difficulty. It took over a year to sort out the firm's affairs, robbing the Mackenzie brothers of an important market which they had been careful to promote. In  1886 , Alexander Matheson died and in  1891 Sir Kenneth Matheson, Alexander's heir, sold the Dalmore distillery, its farms, and the pier to the Mackenzie brothers. As the new owners of the distillery the brothers were determined to upgrade and expand. Work began in  1892 and took nearly eight years to complete. Output from the distillery in the  1892-1893 season for the first time exceeded 100,000 gallons and as the boom continued, climbed to 271,694 gallons in  1895 . However, towards the end of the century the whisky industry was once more in crisis due to overproduction of malt whisky. Malt distillers felt threatened and their anxiety was increased by the fall in the price of malt whisky. There was a combined effort by the Highland distillers to restrict the use of the term "whisky" to malt whisky alone. As a result of this crisis Dalmore's output slumped.  1903  was the fifth year that Dalmore had been operating at half capacity. It was in this climate that Andrew Mackenzie encouraged his second son, Thomas, to open his own bottling and blending business, T M Mackenzie & Co at Invergordon, Highland, and Andrew and Thomas set about recruiting new agents, especially in North America.

Andrew meanwhile continued to campaign vigorously for malt distillers to have the sole right to the term 'whisky'. The Mackenzies welcomed the announcement in  1908  that a Royal Commission was to settle the matter although Mackenzie was stunned when the Commission decided against the malt distillers. Having pinned his hopes on a victory he found himself in severe financial difficulties. To remain in business the Mackenzie's urgently required a buyer for the bulk of their stock. John Dewar & Sons, whisky blenders of Perth, Scotland, obliged. However, a fire at Dalmore in  1911  meant that it was not the end of the troubles for the distillery. Thomas decided to leave the family business and moved to South Africa while his brother, William Farquharson Mackenzie, took over. Andrew Mackenzie decided to sell his Dalmore estate in  1913  to help pay off the debts. Production steadily recovered, although there was no real attempt to rebuild the market for Dalmore as a single malt, instead the bulk of the new make was sold to blenders and brewers. With the outbreak of war W F Mackenzie signed up. Mackenzie Bros managed to keep Dalmore open until  1917  when the Admiralty took over the whole complex. It was not until  1920  that the Admiralty returned Dalmore to Mackenzie Bros. W F Mackenzie set about refurbishing the distillery and attempted to gain compensation from the Admiralty. In  1923  Andrew Mackenzie died and W F Mackenzie took over, but he was forced to close Dalmore indefinitely in  1926 . In  1927 , the business became a limited liability company as  Mackenzie Bros, Dalmore Ltd with a capital of £70,000 and distilling resumed. However, few buyers could be found and the company recorded a loss for its first trading year. Things did not really begin to look up till  1933  with of the end of prohibition in America when production began to increase and new warehouses were constructed. The distillery closed though with the advent of the 1939-1945 World War and did not reopen until peacetime. In  1946 , Major W F Mackenzie died and his son, Major Hector Mackenzie, took over. Over the next ten years production steadily increased. In  1957  the stills were converted to mechanical stoking, and a Hydram stacker was purchased for use in the warehouses in an effort to improve Dalmore's efficiency. Between 1955 and 1958 three new warehouses were constructed. Major Hector Mackenzie began to explore the possibility of an amalgamation with their long-standing customers Whyte & Mackay Ltd, whisky blenders, Glasgow, Scotland. In  1960 , the two concerns merged to form a new public company,  Dalmore, Whyte & Mackay Ltd with head offices in Glasgow. At some point prior to 1991 the company became known as Whyte & Mackay Distilleries Ltdbecoming the Whyte & Mackay Group plc in 1991. In 1996, the company changed name again to JJB (Greater Europe) Ltd becoming Kyndal Spirits Ltd in 2001. A new company called Dalmore, Whyte & Mackay Ltd was incorporated in 1985 by the Whyte & Mackay group although by 2003 this company was dormant. In 2003, the Dalmore Distillery was being operated by Dalmore Distillery Ltd, a subsidiary of Kyndal Ltd set up in 1989. Source:  Moss, Michael and Turton, Alison, The History of Whyte & Mackay,(unpublished manuscript, UGD358/1/1)


This material has been arranged into series described in the scope and content note, within these series the material is generally arranged chronologically.

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Acquisition Information

Deposit : Whyte & Mackay Distillers Ltd

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)) and London (NRA27996)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Archivist's Note

Fonds level description compiled by Hannah Westall, Archives Assistant, 17 January 2000.

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Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

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Related Material

GB 248 UGD 224/17 Records of Jarvis Halliday & Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 358 The Scotch Whisky Collection

See source list on Whisky

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