The old spirit of Mulguy

A FEW grassy humps in a field about two miles from Milngavie is all that remains of a once thriving local concern - the Tambowie Distillery, which in 1885 produced 48,000 gallons of malt whisky.

Milngavie's claim to be a centre of whisky production came to a dramatic end when fire swept the distillery off Stockiemuir Road.

Tambowie, built in 1780, normally only employed about 10 workers, some on a seasonal basis. The whisky was stored in two warehouses, one of them a cave cut out of the rock. Water was brought from the Tambowie Hills.

For a time the distillery was in the ownership of one David Chrystal, who considered only Morayshire barley good enough for Tambowie whisky.


There were two warehouses, one of them a cave cut out of solid rock and which is said to have been used by smugglers for illicit whisky in the days of Rob Roy MacGregor. No sign of the cave remains today. The fire is usually said to have happened during the years of the First World War, however the poem featured on this page describing the blaze appeared in the Herald long before that.

The distillery itself was demolished in the 1920s and the rubble carried away for use as foundation material for roads in Milngavie.

Two well known stories are told of Tambowie Distillery.

One concerns the fire and the actions of the Milngavie worthies who, purely in the spirit of public service, tried to prevent as much of Tambowie's product from going to waste as they possibly could.

The Excise man who lived near the distillery split open the casks, allowing the precious liquid to run into the burn where it was carried in the direction of Milngavie.

Drouthy Milngavie folk flocked to the scene intent on scooping as much of the whisky out as they could before it got too watered down...

The story goes that the locals were inebriated for days.

Another tale concerns livestock kept at the distillery chancing upon a pail of pure whisky that the workers always kept hidden behind the stable door.

Intoxicated pigs and chickens were found wandering all over Stockiemuir Road.