Is Kennetpans the start of it all?

May 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

Having visited Kennetpans last year to take some pictures and seeing it again on the way to the Diageo Archive last month, I decided to contact Brian Townsend, author of Scotch Missed: Scotland’s Lost Distilleries, which I have been publishing for almost 20 years. We contacted Bryan and Fiona Frew who now own the site and arranged a visit to see what their plans were for this important piece of Scotland’s industrial archaeology. On approach down the farm track to the distillery I was struck at how much more of the structure was now visible. Bryan and Fiona took us on a tour of what has clearly been a real labour of love over the past few months. Under the direction of Historic Scotland, all the invasive growth of ivy and shrub trees have been severed at ground level and allowed to die back revealing the entire scope of the distillery. Behind lies a massive, three-story warehouse that last saw action as a biscuit manufactory. The walls remain intact with evidence of shuttering and iron grating.

The distillery building.

Kennetpans was one of Scotland’s greatest industrial undertakings of the 18th century. Although it closed as a distillery in 1825, its impact on the whisky industry was so profound that its DNA is to be found in almost every blended Scotch whisky brand of any import. The roots of distilling in Dublin on a large scale can also be traced back here as John Jameson was a Clackmannanshire Scot, although the whiskey industry in Ireland don’t really advertise their historical links to Scotland. Alongside its sister distillery a little to the east, Kilbagie, this is where large-scale industrial distilling started in Scotland in the late 18th-century and without it, the whole industry would not have evolved in the way it has. This place could be considered as a sort of Mecca when it comes to Scotch whisky.

Bryan and Fiona are applying for a National Lottery Heritage grant to enable them to preserve what is left of the distillery and the warehouses and they deserve all the help they can get. Visit their website and spread the word. Kennetpans must not be allowed to disappear.

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§ 3 Responses to Is Kennetpans the start of it all?

  • Amazing, just down the road from me, had no idea it used to be a distillery

  • Ron Stein says:

    When I was about 10 yrs old, I overheard two aunts talking about a visit to the Clackmanan area. They said that a forebear had a wee distillery but went bust! Also I remember overhearing that one of the ancestors wanted to drain Loch Leven. This was over 60 years ago! Until last year, I took it all with a pinch of salt until I decided to trace the family tree.
    I discovered that my 5X Great Grandfather was the founder of Kennetpans distillery. The wee distillery story turned out to be an understatement!!! Quite a surprise to me.
    Also, I discovered that Loch Leven was indeed lowered if not drained around 1820, so the Mary Q of S island would have been considerably smaller! Lowered by 4′ 6″ apparently.
    Given that this was perhaps the beginnings of Commercial Distilling in Scotland, it is very surprising that it has almost disappeared from the history books. The family also had Dudgeon connections and had a farm beside Belhaven Brewery which was once Dudgeon’s Brewery.
    Anybody out there know anything?? As yet I can find no official confirmation of this.
    The Kennetpansinfo website is fascinating and extremely well researched and well worth a read.

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