Inverleven

Inverleven was a Lowland single malt distillery built in 1938 as part of Canadian giant Hiram Walker’s Dumbarton distillery complex just west of Glasgow on the way to Loch Lomond. 

While the main business of the complex was...

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Inverleven was a Lowland single malt distillery built in 1938 as part of Canadian giant Hiram Walker’s Dumbarton distillery complex just west of Glasgow on the way to Loch Lomond. 

While the main business of the complex was distilling a vast amount of grain whisky for Hiram Walker’s recently-acquired Ballantine’s blend, Inverleven played its part by producing Lowland single malt whisky to bolster the company’s stocks for blending and exchange. Hiram Walker already owned Glenburgie, which remains the Ballantine’s keystone malt, and bought the Miltonduff distillery around the same time as the Dumbarton complex was being constructed.

Hiram Walker were known for innovation at their distilleries, and the Dumbarton complex was no different, with Inverleven’s pot stills the first in the industry to both be fired by steam-heating instead of direct fire. In 1956, Scotland’s first Lomond still - a pot still with a column neck - was installed at Inverleven, rectifying low wines from Inverleven’s wash still. This was soon classed as a separate distillery, Lomond.

Inverleven’s Lomond still was decommissioned in 1985, with the pot stills falling silent in 1991 a few years after the distillery’s acquisition by Allied Lyons. In 2005, under new owners Chivas Brothers and with the majority of the Dumbarton complex already demolished, Inverleven’s stills were purchased by Bruichladdich. 

Bruichladdich christened the Lomond still Ugly Betty and repurposed it to make their Botanist gin. Inverleven’s wash still was set up outside the distillery gates as a tourist photo opportunity, while the spirit still was kept unused at the Lochindaal distillery site. Happily, both of the pot stills were transferred to former Bruichladdich owner Mark Reynier’s new distillery in Waterford in 2015 and recommissioned to produce Irish single malt whiskey.

No official bottlings of Inverleven’s Lowland single malt were done during the distillery’s active lifetime, although a couple of excellent retrospective editions of the 1973 vintage were released by Chivas Brothers in 2010-2011 as part of the Deoch an Doras range.

As is often the case with closed distilleries, the majority of Inverleven single malts released this century are from Gordon & MacPhail, although there were notable earlier bottlings from Cadenhead's and Duncan Taylor, and Signatory have contributed a few great cask strength bottlings in recent times. Sadly stock is now almost gone, with only a handful of Inverlevens appearing in the last decade.

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