10 of the World's Oldest Whisky Distilleries

28-10-2016 By Emily Stockden

Records are sketchy but the Scotch Whisky Association tells us that the earliest recorded production of what would eventually evolve into Scotch was in 1494. We used The Malt Whisky Yearbook (by Ingvar Ronde) and the world wide web to read up and compile this list of the top 10 oldest whisk(e)y distilleries as they were officially recorded.

1608 – Old Bushmills Distillery

Ironically it’s an Irish (and not Scottish) distillery that claims the oldest licensed whisky distillery in the world! King James granted the Governer of County Antrim a license to distil Bushmills in 1608, even though the trademark license was only registered in 1784.

Bushmills Distillery

1757 Kilbeggan Distillery, Ireland.

Although the distillery stopped production for a while, the license to produce was received in 1757. Some say that the distillery is older than the Bushmills, however, this is still a debate.The old mash tuns and fermenters are still in their original positions, as is the iconic waterwheel which once powered the whole distillery.

Kilbeggan distillery

1773 – Buffalo Trace Distillery

Pipping Scotland by 2 years, second place is given to the Americans: Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky started whiskey production in 1773. The distillery is said to have operated continuously since then as it was allowed to operate during Prohibition

Buffalo Trace distillery

1775 – Glenturret Distillery

Scotch whisky distillery, Glenturret, was apparently illegally operated by smugglers as early as the beginning of the 18th Century, but it received an official license to produce and sell whisky in 1775, making it Scotland’s oldest whisky distillery. US Prohibition meant that it was mothballed from 1921 until its 1959 acquisition by Rémy Cointreau. The distillery is now owned by Edrington and makes The Famous Grouse.

Outside Glenturret distillery

1779 – Bowmore

Islay’s first distillery was established in 1779 on the South Eastern coast of the inner Hebrides. Bowmore’s peated single malt is owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers, which is a subsidiary of Japanese Suntory Holdings. It has an annual capacity of 2,000,000 litres and its No. 1 Vaults, is said to be Scotland’s oldest whisky maturation house. In 2007, one of the oldest ever recorded whiskies sold at auction was a Bowmore from the 1800s that fetched £29,400 (around $60,000 USD at the time).

Bowmore distillery outside

1786 – Strathisla

Unlike Glenturret, which is older, Strathisla is Scotland’s oldest continuously operating distillery. Called Miltown Distillery until 1870 Chivas Brothers acquired it in 1950 (given that it’s mostly used as part of the Chivas blend). Its distinctive pagodas and the cobbled courtyard are apparently the same today as they were when it was first built.

Strathisla distillery

1794 – Oban

This distillery, situated on the west coast of Scotland, technically sits in the Highland region, but it is often described stylewise as “West Highland,” or something blending the typical profiles of the Scottish islands and the Highlands. Oban, owned by spirits giant Diageo, is one of the smallest distilleries in this part of the world, but because of its very large parent has an extremely high profile among Scotch drinkers. Its whisky has been promoted in the past as part of Diageo’s expensive “Special Releases” line up, thus commanding from whisky collectors a pretty penny to enjoy its bottlings.

Oban distillery

1797 – Glen Garioch

A local newspaper featured this Highland whisky distillery and announced that production had started in 1785 already; however, all Glen Garioch whisky bottles are imprinted with 1797. It closed in 1968 and reopened again in 1970 when the company today known as Morrison Bowmore Distillers bought it.

Glen Garioch distillery

1800 – Balblair

Closed for almost 40 years, Balblair has a fabulously old distilling archive and the first ledger entry is from 25 January 1800. The distillery was mothballed in 1979 and the last whisky left the warehouse in 1932. It was occupied by the army during World War II and only reopened in 1949. In 2007 it was decided that bottles would only be marked with the year that the whisky was laid down and not age statements.

Outside balblair distillery

1820s – Kasauli Brewery

General Edward Dyer, of the East India Company built Kasauli Distillery to produce whisky and shipped in equipment from England and Scotland – it is believed to be the oldest distillery in Asia. In 1855, the brewery was dismantled and moved to Solan and like Strathisla, it’s been in continuously producing Solan No.1 Single Malt. Today it is called Mohan Meakin Limited.

Gate to Kasauli distillery