Deanston distillery is a Single malt Scotch whisky distillery located on the banks of the River Teith, eight miles from the historic town of Stirling, at the gateway to the dramatic Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. It is the largest distillery owned by Scotch whisky producer Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd, who also own Bunnahabhain Distillery on the Isle of Islay and Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull.
Deanston Distillery started life in 1785 as a cotton mill designed by Sir Richard Arkwright, and remained as such for 180 years until it was transformed into a distillery in 1966. The constant supply of pure water from the River Teith contributed to the decision to turn the mill into a distillery and Deanston is now the only distillery in Scotland to be self-sufficient in electricity, with power generated by an on-site hydro-energy facility. Deanston sits in the Highland single malt region of Scotland and produces whisky which is handmade by ten local craftsmen, un-chill filtered, natural colour and bottled at a strength of 46.3% ABV.
In 1841 James Smith retired from the mill. Operations continued but by 1848, production at Deanston was in decline. The turn of the twentieth century saw a further decrease in demand for cotton and the workforce was scaled down from 1500 to 500 people. Things steadily got worse until the mill was closed on 2 April 1965.
It was the collective efforts of James Finlay & Co, Brodie Hepburn & Co, and A.B (Sandy) Grant, known together as Deanston Distillers Ltd, who converted Deanston Mill into a malt whisky distillery in 1965. The soft, fast flow of the River Teith and a whisky boom in Scotland at the time made the site ideal for whisky production. The distillery was opened on 17 October 1966 after an extensive refurbishment costing £300,000, employing 20 local people, but taking just nine months. Three floors were removed to make room for four copper stills and a mash tun. The constant, cool temperature of the weaving shed made it ideal for whisky maturation. The only completely new building was the tun room – where eight huge fermentation vessels now stand. When full each of these weighs 60 tonnes and they stand on top of the mill’s four underground tunnels leading from the turbine house back to the river.
The distillery was formally opened on 30 January 1967 by the actor Andrew Cruickshank, the star of the BBC’s ‘Dr Finlay’s Casebook’ series. Deanston started bottling in 1971 and the first single malt was named Old Bannockburn. Teith Mill, a blended whisky, was also produced at this time – a kiosk was set up at Blair Drummond Safari Park which sold Old Bannockburn and Teith Mill in take-away cartons. At this point, although it made business sense to sell Deanston as a single malt, it was mainly produced for blending purposes. In 1971, Invergordon Distillers (bought by Whyte & Mackay in 1990) bought Brodie Hepburn Ltd, with Tullibardine Distillery and a 30% share in Deanston Distillery. A year later, Invergordon purchased Deanston outright and the first single malt bearing the name Deanston was produced in 1974. After a downturn in the whisky industry, Deanston Distillery ceased production in 1982 for eight years, before being purchased by current owners Burn Stewart Distillers Limited in 1990.