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    Invergordon Single Malt Whisky

    There are only six dedicated grain whisky distilleries in Scotland: Cameronbridge (Fife), Girvan (Ayrshire), Invergordon (Ross & Cromarty), North British (Edinburgh), Strathclyde (Glasgow) and Starlaw (Bathgate). Loch Lomond Distillery (Dunbartonshire) produces both malt and grain whiskies. Together they have the capacity to produce 400 million litres of pure alcohol per annum – which is about 100 million litres more than all the Scottish malt whisky distilleries, around 110 at the last count and growing! – yet, until recently, only one single grain was generally available, Cameron Bridge, and even that in tiny amounts.

    Then, in 2014, Diageo announced the launch of Haig Club, also from Cameronbridge Distillery (which was founded by John Haig) and William Grant & Sons launched three expressions from Girvan Distillery (see Whiskeria Autumn and Summer issues for reviews). And now Hunter Laing, the respected Glasgow independent bottlers, have released a number of single cask bottlings of Invergordon at different ages.

    The deep-water port of Invergordon, on the north shore of the Cromarty Firth was an important naval base during the two World Wars. Under the Defence of the Realm Act 1916, all the licensed premises in the town were taken over by the State, and in 1931 Invergordon was the scene of a mutiny – a rare event in British naval history. In September 1931, in an attempt to cope with the Great Depression, the National Government announced cuts to public spending, including a 10% pay cut for officers and senior ratings in the Royal Navy and a 25% cut for petty officers and ratings who had joined pre-1925.

    Ten warships of the Atlantic Fleet, under the command of Rear-Admiral Wilfred Tomkinson, arrived at Invergordon on 11th September and when the ships’ crews read about the cuts, spontaneous demonstrations took place ashore and later on board some of the ships, which had been joined by a further four cruisers.By the 14th the situation was serious and when Admiral Tomkinson ordered the fleet to undertake planned practice manoeuvres the following day, the crews of four of the largest battleships refused to obey orders. Around 1,000 men were involved. Tomkinson was sympathetic to his men’s complaints and repeatedly informed the Admiralty of the seriousness of the situation, urging his masters to reconsider the 25% cut for junior ratings who had joined the service before 1925 and stressing that this was the only complaint and that the men remained respectful to their officers. In the end the Cabinet accepted his recommendation, the ships were ordered to return to their home ports, the leaders of the mutiny were jailed and 200 sailors discharged from the service.

    During the 1950s several attempts were made to bring industry to the Highlands north of Inverness: Invergordon Distillery was one. It was vigorously promoted by James Grigor, Provost of Inverness, with good reason: communications by sea and road were excellent, the port was on the edge of a notable barley-growing district and the water was first rate. Invergordon Distillers Ltd was incorporated in 1959 and the distillery commenced production in July 1961 with one Coffey still producing 10,000 gallons of pure alcohol a week. Two further Coffey stills were installed in 1963, and a fourth in 1978, with an extra column to produce industrial alcohol. Current capacity is 38 million litres of pure alcohol per annum.

    Since 1993, the distillery has been owned by Whyte & Mackay; in May this year Whyte & Mackay was bought by the Philippinesbased brandy distiller, Emperador, producer of the world’s bestselling brandy – close to 31 million cases a year. The best-selling Scotch, Johnnie Walker, sells just over 19 million cases.

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