When I visited Coleburn in 1986 it had already been silent for a whole year. I described it as “a perfect example of a traditional Highland distillery, outwardly complete in every way”. It was in the middle of the “killing season” for so many malt whisky distilleries and I wrote the relevant chapter in a way, which I hoped would save this “perfect example”. Sadly, to no avail, and the distillery’s license, in the name of the United Distillers subsidiary of J and G Stewart Ltd, eventually expired in 1992 and most available casks have been bottled by now. As it was believed to be a long time component of Johnnie Walker Red, Coleburn has escaped the attention of most malt drinkers as it was always intended to be used in blends. Almost the entire output was matured in ex-Bourbon barrels
Coleburn remained mothballed rather than being razed to the ground like so many of its kind. The buildings continue to survive thanks to the Winchester brothers who bought them in 2004 with plans to develop the site into an hotel and for associated purposes. The dunnage warehouses were leased 10 years later to Aceo, which owns the independent bottler, Murray McDavid, with a view to maturing its own whisky stocks and as the company’s headquarters.
Murray McDavid also owns the Coleburn brand as Coleburn Distillery Ltd, and has released a blend under that name. How splendid if they were so bold as to restart distilling there! In the meantime the few bottlings of the original Coleburn single malt to be found continue to move up in value.