Today one doesn’t readily associate Angus with whisky production, although five distilleries once operated there — North Port and Glencadam in Brechin, Lochside and Hillside/Glenesk at Montrose and Glencoull near Tannadice. Today only Glencadam survives, part of the thriving Angus-Dundee group. Other bonded warehouses or bottling plants existed in Montrose and Arbroath, but all of them have disappeared.
Glencoull closed in 1927, its malt a key ingredient of Black Bull blended whisky, produced for further decades by the Dundee wine and spirit firm Willsher. Some years ago Duncan Taylor of Huntly acquired the Black Bull name, now marketed as various de-luxe blends.
Kincardineshire, now part of Aberdeenshire, had three distilleries – Auchenblae, Royal Glenury at Stonehaven and sole survivor Fettercairn, part of Whyte and Mackay, now owned by the Filipino group Emperador. Parts of Auchenblae survive, but Glenury is buried under a vast housing estate.
In Angus, all traces of Glencoull have vanished, bar the former manager’s house. North Port distillery and warehousing are supplanted by a supermarket and car park, and a funeral parlour stands on the former cooling pond. Lochside, recently mentioned in Amber Lights, is no more but parts of Glenesk/ Hillside remain, straggled between the North Esk and East Coast rail line.
However, there are other forgotten Angus premises, largely in Montrose, that were linked to whisky. Bow Butts Bond until some years ago housed Taylors the Auctioneers until they moved to new premises in Brent Avenue north of the town. Appropriately, Taylors hold regular whisky auctions.
Bow Butts and nearby Paton’s flax mill (later called Chapel Works) were long used as bonded warehouses and for bottling many well-known drinks, including Morton’s OVD rum. It was also Rutherfords’ manufacturing centre, whose ceramic decanters, usually with pictures of game birds, were renowned throughout Scotland. These can still be found today at bric-a-brac shops and elsewhere, sometimes with their own blended whisky still in them.
They also produced ceramic black bulls (for Willsher’s Black Bull whisky), and 101 exotic containers of every shape for sherry, whisky and other spirits, for themselves and other customers. That side was run by the MacRaes, father and son. In later years the son, Fraser MacRae, moved the business to premises near Sleepyhillock Cemetery, off the Brechin road. Sadly, he died quite recently. The Chapel Works site is now housing, although the front façade remains.
In post-war years, the famous Joe Hobbs converted the ex-flax mill in Dens Road, Arbroath, into bonded warehousing, plus a small cooperage. He briefly considered building a distillery there but opted instead for Lochside, storing full casks from Lochside and other distilleries at Arbroath. The building later passed to DYC and Seagrams before being sold to a local developer.