The Cambus distillery is believed to have been founded in 1806 by John Moubray in the Alloa village of the same name, although title for the land, which had previously hosted a mill, was not formally acquired until 1823. Cambus originally made Lowland single...
The Cambus distillery is believed to have been founded in 1806 by John Moubray in the Alloa village of the same name, although title for the land, which had previously hosted a mill, was not formally acquired until 1823. Cambus originally made Lowland single malt whisky in two pot stills, but these were replaced in 1836 by a pair of Stein stills as the distillery was converted to grain whisky production.
These Stein stills were themselves replaced with a Coffey-style still in 1851 and subsequently Cambus, with John Moubray’s grandson Robert now in charge, signed up to the grain distillers' collective trade agreements in 1856 and 1865. These agreements led to the formation of the industry-shaping Distillers Company Limited in 1877, with Cambus on board as co-founders.
By the time of Alfred Barnard’s visit in 1886, Cambus had bought a local brewery to use as a maltings plant and the distillery site covered over eight acres, with two large Coffey stills and a third stillhouse under construction. Cambus was by then producing almost a million gallons of spirit a year and had 17,000 casks maturing in six warehouses.
Cambus’s importance at the beginning of the 20th century can be demonstrated by the fact that it became a focus for the battle between malt and grain distillers in 1906 when DCL marketed a seven year old Cambus single grain - with the legendary tagline ‘Not A Headache In A Gallon’ - in defiance of the Irish distillers assertion that only pot-distilled spirit should be referred to as whisky.
Troubles were ahead, unfortunately. In 1914 a large part of the distillery’s grain preparation plant was destroyed in a fire that raged for two days. Although the warehouses and stillrooms were saved no distillation took place for over two decades and the Cambus site was repurposed as a maltings and warehousing for nearby Carsebridge. Eventually in 1937 the distillery was almost entirely demolished and rebuilt to take advantage of the increased post-Prohibition demand from the USA. Production was resumed briefly before the distillery had to shut down again with the advent of WWII.
In the post-war period, Cambus was augmented, first in 1952 with a rectification plant as backup gin production for Wandsworth distillery and then in 1953 when the distillery was equipped to collect and sell the carbon dioxide from its fermentation. In the 1960s the first plant for distillation by-products was built at the distillery, converting ‘dried solubles’ into animal feed. This was converted into a dark grains facility in 1982.
Like the Caledonian distillery before it, Cambus fell victim to DCL descendant United Distillers’ consolidation programme in 1993 and was closed, with the site repurposed initially as a cask-filling facility and warehousing. In 2011 owners Diageo built a large new cooperage at Cambus to service the nearby Blackgrange warehouses.