Glenkinchie Distillery is one of the three remaining Lowland Malt Whisky distilleries. It owes its name to its location: a glen by the Kinchie burn near Pencaitland in East Lothian. Just 15 miles away from Edinburgh it nestles between the verdant Lammermuir hills and the small coastal resorts along the Firth of Forth where it meets the sea.
The name ‘Kinchie’ is a Lalland or Lowland Dialect corruption of ‘De Quincy’, the original owners of the land in the 14th century, when East Lothian was the ‘Garden of Scotland’ The distillery was established in 1837 by the Rate brothers who were originally farmers. They grew and malted their own barley here and distilled a high quality Lowland whisky. The original name was Milton Distillery and the brothers probably renamed it around 1837.
The distillery closed in1853 when the brothers went bankrupt. The empty buildings of the distillery were used as a cowshed for the surrounding rolling farmlands.. In the 1880s Glenkinchie was bought by a consortium of whisky merchants and blenders from Edinburgh and Leith. The distillery was rebuilt and production re-established. It reopened as Glen Kinchie Distillery.
It was rebuilt once again between the two World Wars. Set in farmland, in the 1940s and 1950s the distillery manager bred prize-winning cattle, feeding them on what was left over from the used grains. Even today it has its own bowling green. Water comes from reservoirs in the Lammermuir Hills. It is slightly chalky which the experts on ‘Edinborough Malt’ claim modifies the characteristic Lowland malt taste, making it drier. Glenkinchie has still kept its wooden wash backs.
Glenkinchie was bought and has remained in operation under the license of John Haig & Co owned by United Distillers. 1969 the distillery stopped malting its own barley and the malting floors were converted into a malt whiskey museum. The museum is housed in listed red brick buildings. A beautifully-crafted model of the distillery is among the exhibits. The model was made in 1924 by the firm of Basset-Lowke.
It is a significant contributor to Haig’s blends and is a component of ‘Dimple’ Haig. As the product was mainly used to blend and top up other whiskies, the Glenkinchie label was relatively little known until 1989. At that time it was introduced as a part of United Distillers’ Classic Malts range. Since then it has been sold as a Single Malt.
The standard 10 year old Glenkinchie is a typical Lowland whisky, fresh and light in character, with notes of lemon and cut grass. The 14 year old Distiller’s Edition is double-matured in Amontillado Sherry casks. The Glenkinchie whisky is also bottles independently by Cadenhead and by Gordon & Macphail. The distillery opened its
Visitor’s Center in 1997.