The honour of being the first distillery in Dufftown, at the heart of Speyside in Highland Scotland, goes to the Mortlach Distillery. Founded in 1823, it opened it’s doors over four decades before it’s famous Dufftown neighbour Glenfiddich. Founded by James Findlater, he was soon joined by Alexander Gordon and Donald Macintosh although over the following 20 years the distillery changed hands numerous times. John Robertson in 1831, A & T Gregory in 1832, and then John and James Grant, of Aberlour Distillery fame, who dismantled all the equipment and used it at the nearby Glen Grant Distillery.
John Alexander Gordon joined the Grant brothers in 1842 however was nearly 10 years later before whisky production resumed, sold as ‘The Real John Gordon’.
In 1853, Dufftown native George Cowie accepted a partnership at the Mortlach Distillery. Cowie eventually became sole owner of the distillery in 1867, ushering in an age of growth with it’s product revered by blenders for it’s deep flavours.
Cowie’s son, Alexander, returned in 1896 from working as a doctor in Hong Kong to take over the running of Mortlach from his now ill father, who would die just a year later at the age of 80. He immediately set about plans to increase capacity at the distillery with the addition of two much larger stills, to give 6 in total.
After nearly 40 years of family ownership, which had seen it’s popularity grow, Alexander decided to sell to one of it’s largest customers - Johnnie Walker. Soon after, Walker merged with other distillers to form the Distillers Company Ltd, which would go on to become the drinks giant Diageo.
Although still an important part of many famous blends, Mortlach occasionally releases limited bottlings of it’s single malt which are in high demand.