A New Legend Is Born

In 2017, almost 25 years after the legendary Cambus Distillery closed its doors, PRIMA MATERIA opened the doors for a new era.

The Legacy Of The Cambus Distillery

Cambus was one of the first distillers in Scotland to be legally licensed. In 1993 the distillery was closed down, but the legacy lives on.

Deep Roots

A distillery that dates back to the times when bulk commercial distilling was in its infancy, Cambus enjoyed a long and distinguished history and was among the first distilleries in Scotland to convert to grain whisky production.

Cambus enjoyed a long history and was among the first distilleries in Scotland to convert to grain whisky production.

The Beginnings

In 1806, one John Mowbray or Moubray converted a derelict mill on the River Devon, just before it joined the Forth, to a pot-still malt distillery. The business then passed to his ambitious son, James, who expanded grain output, built up a herd of 450 cattle on the draff and other residue, then overreached himself and was sequestrated in 1843.

His son Robert took over, installed a bigger grain still ’similar to Coffey’s‘ in 1851 and eventually made Cambus one of the largest grain plants in Scotland. Under Robert, Cambus became a founder member of DCL in 1877. in 1882 it bought Cambus Old Brewery to enlarge the distillery’s malting capacity. Barnard visited in 1886 and extolled the distillery’s bustling eight-acre site where ‚rail sidings ran to all the principal warehouses‘.

Expansion And The Big Crisis

In 1886, annual output was nigh on a million gallons and the distillery’s six vast warehouses held, at the time Barnard called, more than 17,000 casks containing 1.4 million gallons. The total warehouse capacity was 25,000 casks and more than two million gallons. Cambus was in the big league. Cambus, thanks to its strong position in DCL, weathered most of the storms that beset the industry between 1900 and 1914 until, in that year, disaster struck. On the gale-blasted night of 24 September, fire broke out in the maltings and grain stores and eventually engulfed most of the distillery. Only the bonded warehouses and their precious contents were spared. As a result the distillery closed and did not reopen until 1938.

Production started in December 1937 and the distillery was formally reopened in January 1938. A host of projects — including Saladin makings and a rectification plant — were planned for Cambus, but the outbreak of war put them on ice.

Expansion And The Big Crisis

In 1886, annual output was nigh on a million gallons and the distillery’s six vast warehouses held, at the time Barnard called, more than 17,000 casks containing 1.4 million gallons. The total warehouse capacity was 25,000 casks and more than two million gallons. Cambus was in the big league. Cambus, thanks to its strong position in DCL, weathered most of the storms that beset the industry between 1900 and 1914 until, in that year, disaster struck. On the gale-blasted night of 24 September, fire broke out in the maltings and grain stores and eventually engulfed most of the distillery. Only the bonded warehouses and their precious contents were spared. As a result the distillery closed and did not reopen until 1938.

Production started in December 1937 and the distillery was formally reopened in January 1938. A host of projects — including Saladin makings and a rectification plant — were planned for Cambus, but the outbreak of war put them on ice.

Later Years

In the post-war years, Cambus saw the installation of the rectifier around 1952, a carbon dioxide processing plant in 1953, 18 warehouses between 1955 and 1957, a cattle feed drying plant in 1964 and a dark grains plant in 1982. That year the nearby Strathmore grain distillery, which had recently closed, was bought to allow future expansion.

The distillery was closed by United Distillers on 14 September 1993 — almost eight decades after its fire-enforced closure of 1914 — and grain production concentrated at Cameron Bridge, 30 miles away in Fife and at Port Dundas in Glasgow. Cambus still stands and is being used as a cask-filling centre and for bonded warehousing. However, it looks as if its distilling days are gone for good.