Here we have three “ghosts” within one! The Dumbarton Grain Distillery was launched with much fanfare in 1938 as the flagship of the Canadian distilling group of Hiram Walker-Gooderham, who had already in 1936 acquired George Ballantine & Son Ltd. It was built as a single continuous distillation unit designed by the Vulcan Copper and Supply Company of Cincinnati, thus breaking away from the traditional Coffey stills used elsewhere in the industry to produce grain whisky. A particular feature of the system was that it used only maize as its sole grain source. Hiram Walker’s UK operations were acquired by Allied Lyons in 1988 and the distillery was closed in 2002 and the buildings demolished over a period of time. Thus, Dumbarton had an active life of around 65 years.
Within the Dumbarton complex a Lowland malt distillery, known as Inverleven, was installed and also started up in 1938. It was a fairly modest two-still operation and was used almost exclusively to provide malt whisky for the Ballantine’s blends. Its main point of interest is that it is thought to be the first distillery to steam-heat both its wash and spirit stills rather than use direct fire, a system adopted subsequently by the majority of Scotch whisky distilleries. Although it started life at the same time as Dumbarton, Inverleven went through periods of “silence” and it was eventually completely closed down in 2001. And so Inverleven had an active life of about 50 years.
Alongside the Inverleven stills a third element was introduced in 1956 to be known as the Lomond malt distillery – not to be confused with nearby Loch Lomond distillery! Lomond used a rectification column with changeable plates capable of creating different styles of spirit. Although the Lomond still shared Inverleven’s wash still, it was classed as a separate distillery called Lomond, which was mothballed in 1985 and so had an operational life of less than thirty years.
And so although this distilling complex produced large quantities of whisky - Dumbarton grain, Inverleven malt and Lomond malt – there is very little of it around today simply because the company’s policy was not to bottle it in the single format and to use the three makes exclusively for blending. Some casks of Dumbarton and Inverleven went to independent bottlers but we know of no Lomond expressions. Allied Domecq, as it had become, was folded into Pernod Ricard in 2005 and the Dumbarton site eventually cleared for housing.