North British History

The North British (the archaic and somewhat disparaging term applied to post-Jacobite Scotland) distillery was founded in Edinburgh in 1885. Up until that point, Scotland’s blenders and spirit merchants could only buy their grain from DCL [see Cameronbridge]. In an attempt to break the monopoly, Andrew Usher, William Sanderson, John Crabbie, and James Watson joined forces to build a new – and substantial – grain distillery in Gorgie, close to the Union Canal, the railway line, and the Caledonian distillery which had been absorbed into DCL the year before. A case of the last straw perhaps?

Production started in 1887 from a single Coffey. Within three years capacity had doubled to three million gallons a year. Whisky-making ceased during the First World War, but production restarted in 1920. It was nursed cautiously through the tricky period of the 1930s, but blossomed once more post-WWII. By the 1960s it was making six million gallons a year (a figure which would double by the start of the following decade), and for a period, North British was the largest grain plant in Scotland. 

By the 1960s it was still being run as a kind of co-operative with its shareholders including Robertson & Baxter, IDV, William Lawson, Macdonald Martin, Seagram, and William Teacher. In 1993 its management was taken over by Lothian Distillers, an equal partnership between R&B [now Edrington Group] and IDV. The result of the merger between the latter and DCL (by that time called UD) in 1997, meant that North British was being jointly run by the firm which it had set up in opposition to.

Ahh, the irony.

North British Facts

  • Blends contributed to i
    Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal, J&B, Isle Of Skye
  • Capacity (mlpa) i
  • Cook time i
    90 minutes
  • Distillation system i
    Coffey still
  • Fermentation Time i
    72 hours
  • Filling Strength i
  • Grain type i
  • Malted barley % i
    min 15%
  • New-make Strength i
  • Number of columns i
    Three Coffey Stills
  • Water Source i
    Pentland water


Parent companies

Current owner

Previous owner

  • The North British Distillery Company 1887 - 1993


North British Distillery
9 Wheatfield Road
EH11 2PX
United Kingdom
Visit Website
+44 131 337 3363
Visitor Opening Hours
Not open to the public


See also

  • William Sanderson & Son William Sanderson & Son William Sanderson & Son Distiller & blender

    William Sanderson & Son

    Leith-based whisky blender most famous for its Vat 69 blend.

  • Arthur Bell & Sons Arthur Bell & Sons Arthur Bell & Sons Blender

    Arthur Bell & Sons

    Once one of the great independent whisky producers of Scotland.

  • Bulloch Lade & Company Bulloch Lade & Company Bulloch Lade & Company Distiller & blender

    Bulloch Lade & Company

    An independent distiller and blender that once operated Caol Ila and Tamdhu distilleries.

  • John Haig & Company John Haig & Company John Haig & Company Distiller & blender

    John Haig & Company

    Distilling dynasty best known for its early adoption of the patent still at Cameronbridge.

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