Oban Distillery History


Hugh Stevenson purchases the island of Belnahua, quarrying slate there.
He and his brothers deal in commodities and engage in speculative development in Oban, laying out much of the town.


Hugh and John Stevenson form the Oban Brewery Company with other partners. It is soon producing "Cowbell Ale", after the coble' a vat for steeping malt. A year later, distilling begins.


The first written record of distilling on the site. Hugh Stevenson & Co., distillers, plead unfair competition from Islay smugglers in a February letter to Thomas Ross, Collector of Excise, requesting lenient treatment.


John Stevenson purchases the site of the brewery. Hugh Stevenson may
have continued distilling - more probably, the distillery is mothballed.


John Stevenson purchases the site of the brewery. Hugh Stevenson may
have continued distilling - more probably, the distillery is mothballed.


His father Hugh dies, a year after being elected the second Provost of Oban. With his brother, he "greatly aided the town's advancement, and promoted the prosperity of the country in its neighbourhood".


Thomas buys up remaining shares in the Oban Brewery Company, and buys the distillery. Energy does not imply business acumen. His middle son later sends money from Peru to help clear debts on his grandfather Hugh's estate, entreating his mother not to pass any to Thomas - "he, you and myself know that money flies through his fingers, God knows how, without doing any good to himself".


Thomas is declared bankrupt, his debts put at over £8,000. His eldest son, John, confusingly referred to in some sources as his nephew, takes over.


John Stevenson buys the distillery from his father's trustees, possibly for a mere £l,500 — little more than half the hoped-for figure. An impressed customer assures him that "the distillery will be carried on in your name to better purpose under your management than under your father's".


John Stevenson is no longer at the distillery. His son had died the previous year and this may have prompted the family to sell.


Oban distillery is sold to a local merchant, Peter Cumstie.


John Stevenson dies in Oban, aged 70.


The railway arrives, ushering in a new era of improved communications and tourism.


J. Walter Higgin buys Oban, and in an early advertisement declares it "The finest sma' still whisky in the Highlands". R.B. Tatlock, Public Analyst for the City of Glasgow, is said to declare Oban Distillery Whisky the finest I have ever examined".


During alterations - the present buildings largely date from this period - a cave (now resealed) is discovered behind the distillery, in which are found Mesolithic human remains. Whether these were cave-dwellers, or merely people buried here, is unclear.


Higgin shrewdly sells Oban at the height of the whisky boom to the Oban and Aultmore Distilleries Ltd., formed by Aultmore's Alexander Edward in partnership with Glasgow merchants Wright & Greig and Leith merchant FW Brickman.


The failure of another Leith firm, Pattison's, brings a collapse in confidence and hard times. After wartime restrictions, Alexander Edward sells Aultmore and takes Oban into a new company, Oban Distillery Company Ltd., which pays handsome annual dividends throughout the 1920s.


The whole share capital is purchased by Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd.


Oban's two small stills are converted to a mechanical stoking system.


The closure of Oban is announced, along with that of Glenlochy and Glengarioch, as too small and incapable of enlargement because of its unusual and historic town centre site.


Reprieve, as a new still-house is built, the stills are converted to internal heating by steam and production recommences.


Oban is widely sold as a 12 year old, in a distinctive decanter which to Michael Jackson looks "as though it contained perfume".


Oban 14 year old Single Malt becomes one of the six Classic Malts, representing the Western Highlands.


Oban distillery welcomes approx 35,000 visitors per year and is Diageo's second smallest distillery. We have 7 skilled operators crafting our Oban Single malt whisky and a team of knowledgeable guides inviting visitors from all over the globe to enjoy our Sensory & Flavours Tour. This year we saw our first ever distillery only bottling hit the shelves in the visitor centre . It's a cask strength Oban malt double matured in Montilla Fino casks and is an extremely fine dram !

To find out more, please visit our distillery.

To find out more, please visit our distillery.

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