Is Ardbeg the Oldest Distillery on Islay?

Sometimes you get to read some strange and at the same time interesting stories on the internet. I always thought that Bowmore was the oldest (legal) distillery on Islay because it was founded in 1779 by John Simpson. This was long before distilleries like Ardbeg (1815), Laphroaig (1815) and Lagavulin (1816) were officially opened. In fact Bowmore could be one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland together with Glenturret, which was founded in 1775 according to Glenturret itself. To be recognised as the oldest distillery in Scotland is of course something really special and will without a doubt boost sales. Today however the University of Glasgow announced that evidence has been found which suggests that the Meldrum Distillery, the former name of Glen Garioch, is in fact the oldest distillery in Scotland and was founded in 1785. This is however six years later than the opening of the Bowmore Distillery, but it seems that excise records show that Bowmore was not founded until 1816 which could make Ardbeg the oldest distillery on Islay. Confused? It seems that the University of Glasgow isn't 100% certain as well and calls for anyone with verifiable knowledge to come forward. Below a quote from the article:

Scottish Brewing Archivist Iain Russell said: “While researching the early history of the alcoholic drinks trade in Scotland we were intrigued by the number of claimants to the ‘Oldest Distillery’ title. As we have an unrivalled collection of resources for the study of the industry, we decided to test the historical validity of these claims.” Amongst the distilleries being called to prove the authenticity of their claims are Glenturret and Bowmore. Iain Russell continued: “Glenturret and Bowmore both claim to be the oldest whisky distillery in Scotland, Glenturret claiming to be founded in 1775 and Bowmore in 1779. However, excise records suggest that Bowmore was not founded until 1816 and Glenturret followed almost two years later, long after distilleries such as Ardbeg, Oban and Blair Athol. “While Strathisla appears to have the strongest case out of the current claimants, we have discovered a strong contender in another distillery that was unaware of how far back its history goes. A report in the Aberdeen Journal from 1785 refers to the sale of spirits at the Meldrum Distillery which we believe is almost certainly the former name of the Glen Garioch Distillery. The owners previously believed the distillery was not founded until 1797.

The Scottish Brewing Archive are calling for anyone with verifiable historical evidence to back up the claims of other whisky distilleries to the title of ‘Scotland’s Oldest Distillery’ to contact Iain Russell at or phone 0141 330 6079

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