Glenury Royal Distillery


Glenury Royal Distillery

1825 - closed (in 1985)
2 Wash, 2 Spirit
Diageo / United Distillers (until 1992)
Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, AB39 2PY, Scotland, UK

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Glenury Royal (a.k.a. Glenury) was founded in 1825.
Founder Robert Barclay chose a location near Stonehaven,
South of Aberdeen to build his malt whisky distillery. That
makes it an eastern Highland distillery, just like its 'coastal'
neighbours Glenesk, Lochside and North Port.
Captain Robert Barclay was a Member of
Parliament. Perhaps that's why he was one of only three
distillers that managed to get permission by King William IV
to put the world "Royal" in front of the distillery name.
The Glenury Royal distillery takes its name from the glen
that runs through the Ury district. Incidentally, Captain
Robert Barclay was also Laird of the Ury district. In fact,
he was a multi-talented man. For example, he was the
first man (on record) to run 1000 miles in 1000 hours.
(I'm guessing he took breaks for eating and drinking.)

Glenury Royal had a fairly unfortunate start. On April 20th 1825 (a few weeks after production started), a fire destroyed the kiln, the malting floors, parts of the grain loft and considerable stocks of barley. Just two weeks later fate struck again; local distillery worker James Clark fell into the boiler and didn't come out alive. This was sort of an occupational hazard for distillery staff at the time - James wasn't the first or the last distillery worker to suffer from a 'freak distillation accident'.

Robert Barclay himself passed away relatively peacefully in 1854 and the Glenury Royal distillery was put up for auction circa three years later. In 1857 or 1858 it was acquired by William Richie from Glasgow. Ownership of Glenury Royal remained in the Richie family until 1928 (when production ceased) and perhaps even 1936. Details on this sale are a tad vague because the seller wasn't a member of the Richie family, but Lord Stonehaven. The Richie family probably leased the Glenury Royal distillery from the lord at this point.
The buyer who bought the distillery was the Glenury Distillery Company which was under the control of one Joseph William Hobbs. Lord Stonehaven sold Glenury Royal distillery in 1936 to Hobbs' company for 7,500 GBP. Just two years later the distillery was sold on to another company from Hobbs; ASD (Associated Scottish Distillers). Interestingly enough, within just two years the price had more than doubled to £18,500. The significant difference in price wasn't warranted by a renovation of Glenury Royal or new distillery equipment, so it would seem that the dealings of Hobbs were on the shady side of the spectrum. Glenury Royal distillery changed hands again soon afterwards and was sold to American National Distillers in 1940.

Production at Glenuray Royal distillery ceased during
the second world war, but in 1953 Distillers Company
Limited (DCL, one of the predecessors of Diageo)
bought ASD and transferred the company to SMD
(Scottish Malt Distillers).
In 1965 (some say 1966) the distillery was completely
refurbished and the number of stills was doubled from
two to four. The maltings of Glenury Royal were closed
three years later, in 1968. The distillery kept producing
whisky for almost two more decades, but eventually
it was mothballed by DCL on May 31th, 1985. In 1992
the owners decided to cease the production of malt
whisky at Glenury Royal for good.

The buildings of the distillery were eventually turned into apartments.
The remains of Glenury Royal were sold in 1993 to a real estate company who turned part of these buildings into apartments. (Close to the ones depicted above...) The result of the sale is that Glenury Royal is definitively histor

2003 - Even though the Glenury Royal distillery was mothballed in 1985, a 50 years old official bottling was released by the formal owners of its inheritance, Diageo.
2005 - A 36yo official bottling of Glenury Royal is released (more than a decade after it was demolished).
2007 - Another 36yo official bottling is released, this time from casks that were filled in 1970.

1) Apart from being a politician, Captain Robert Barclay was also an athlete and marathon runner.
In 1809 he was also the first man to run 1000 miles within 1000 hours. For this achievement he was later included in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.

2) Official and semi-official releases from Glenury Royal include a 23yo 1971/1995 and 29yo 1970/1999 bottling in the UD Rare Malts series. In 2003 Diageo released a 50yo official bottling; only 498 bottles were produced. A limited release of a 36yo bottling (ABV 51,2%) was released in 2005 - the size of this batch was 2100 bottles.

3) More trivia about Glenury Royal may be added later...

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Glenury Royal was founded in 1825 near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire in the Eastern Highlands by Captain Robert Barclay.  The name of the distillery was taken from the nearby Glen in the district of Ury.  Barclay himself was a colourful character: as well as being the Laird of Ury and the local MP (Kincardine), he was also a famous athlete who had walked from London to Birmingham in two days in 1799.  He also had the somewhat peculiar distinction of being the first person to have walked 1000 miles in 1000 hours, a feat he accomplished in 1808.

Barclay's prominence created an advantage for the fledgeling distillery: in 1835, through the influence of a friend in court (referred to only as Mrs Windsor), he was able to secure permission from King William IV to attach the epithet 'Royal' as a suffix to the name of his newly-constructed Glenury Distillery.  Only Royal Lochnagar and Royal Brackla share this privilege.

The distillery had been built partly to stave off the effects of an agricultural depression by providing the local farmers with a ready market for their barley.  It remained under the stewardship of Captain Barclay until his death in 1847, after which it was put up for sale.

Glenury Royal was purchased in 1852 by William Ritchie of Glasgow, whereupon it fell dormant for six years.  Reopening in 1858, it became a limited company in Ritchie's name in 1890.  The Ritchie family company owned the distillery until 1938, when it was sold to Associated Distillers Ltd for £7500, and following another silent period during WWII the distillery became the property of Distillers Co. Ltd (DCL, later Diageo) in 1953.

DCL refurbished the distillery in 1965-66, doubling the number of stills from two to four.  In 1968, though, it was decided that the 19th century malting floors would be better employed as storage for empty casks, after which the distillery had to buy in its malted barley from outside.  The kilns were demolished in 1979.

Glenury Royal fell silent during the slump in 1983 and was closed for good in 1985.  Ownership was transferred to United Distillers in 1986, but the license was returned in 1992 and the following year the site was sold to private developers who promptly demolished the distillery and built some houses.

In common with other Highland malts, Glenury Royal was spicy and fruity.  Interest in the malt was revived by some stunning Rare Malt bottlings in the late 1990s, followed by an amazing official bottling of 50 year-old.  Some independent bottlings are also available.

TF 26/09/07