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If whisky isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Scotland, it’s certainly high on the list. Most Scottish distilleries are located in the Highlands, Speyside, or the islands off the coast like Islay, rather than in the larger cities. However, Glasgow has still served an important historic role in the whisky trade, as it was the port of departure for exports before the local shipping industry declined. While there are whisky tours & tastings in Glasgow, it wasn’t until recent years that any single malt whisky distilleries were once again operating in the city. The Clydeside Distillery is the second new whisky distillery in Glasgow in over 100 years, and it’s the only distillery in the city to currently offer tours.
Visiting the Clydeside Distillery
The Clydeside Distillery, which opened in 2017, is located in a former pump house on the River Clyde (not a huge surprise based on the name). The distillery is just west of the SEC & Hydro, east of the Riverside Museum, and just across the river from the Glasgow Science Centre. Public transportation to the distillery could be better, as most of the local buses either go through the West End to the north or along Govan Road on the south side of the Clyde. Exhibition Centre is the closest train station. There is also a hop-on, hop-off bus stop at the distillery.
Clydeside Distillery tours & tastings are available for a fee, but you can visit the gift shop & café for free.
The café serves sandwiches, pastries, and doughnuts. There is also coffee & a full bar with not just whisky, but also craft beer from local brewery West. It’s a nice place to kill some time if you’ve arrived early for your Clydeside Distillery tour. I highly recommend the whisky-glazed doughnut from Tantrum Doughnuts.
The gift shop is a standard distillery shop. It features the full line of whisky bottles, plus the ability to fill your own bottle from a cask. There are also plenty of Clydeside branded items available for sale. Tours depart from the gift shop.
Clydeside Distillery Tours
There are two different Clydeside Distillery tours available. The main tour is about an hour long & comes with a tasting of 2 whiskies at the end. Book your Clydeside Distillery tour here. There are also 90-minute tours with 5 whiskies & chocolate, as well as distillery manager & private tours that can be booked through the official website.
On my recent return to Glasgow, where I lived for a couple of years, I opted for the main Clydeside tour. The visit starts with a short video with facts about whisky, but also about the related port industry. The video also covers dockworker unions and the history of the docks themselves. While Glasgow had about 40 distilleries at one point, the city was most notable in the industry because nearly all of the exported whisky flowed through these docks along the Clyde.
The second part of the Clydeside Distillery tour is somewhat self-guided. Upstairs, there are a variety of panels on display, telling about the history of whisky in Scotland as well as the whisky barons of Glasgow.
It’s a simple, but nice overview of the whisky industry. And it’s uniquely local, as no other Scottish distillery tour can offer this history of the docks & export process.
The tour continues with a room that is partially about the Morrison family, who own the Clydeside Distillery, and partially about the restoration of the area & the construction of the distillery. John Morrison built the original pump house, making it the perfect location for his great-grandson Tim Morrison to open the Clydeside Distillery while maintaining these historic ties. The Morrison family has experience in the spirits industry. They also operated Auchentoshan, another distillery near Glasgow.
This section of the Clydeside Distillery tour also tells the history of the building. The Queen’s Dock was filled in 1977, the final sign of the demise of Glasgow shipping & shipbuilding. However, in 2017, construction began on refurbishing the pump house building. There is a video showing its restoration and the construction of the distillery.
Finally, the tour concludes with the whisky-making process. The Clydeside tour doesn’t spend a ton of time on distilling itself. That is fine since every distillery tour is mostly the same in that regard.
All of the water for Clydeside whisky (as well as all the tap water in Glasgow) comes from Loch Katrine, which is 40 miles away. It thankfully doesn’t come from the murky Clyde, though it does provide a nice backdrop.
The barley used in Clydeside whisky comes from seven farms in the Lowlands. While Scottish barley is not a requirement for whisky to be considered Scottish, the distillery still insists on using it.
After the introduction about the distilling process, the tour then proceeds past the actual distilling equipment, starting with the barley mill.
Next, it passes the mash tun.
Then finally, the copper pot stills, which overlook the River Clyde. The shapes of the stills help determine the flavor of the whisky.
Clydeside Distillery Tasting
Speaking of flavor, the tour continues with a Clydeside tasting.
The main tour’s Clydeside Distillery tasting consists of two single malt whiskies. One is sherry cask aged, while the other is bourbon cask aged. Visitors also get to keep the glass at the end of the Clydeside tour.
The distillery uses a mix of both types of cask in their maturation process. The two separate drams let visitors see the flavors imparted by each. Although considered Lowland whiskies, they drink more like Speysides.
As I sipped my whisky, I noticed the music playing in the background was “The Twist” by Frightened Rabbit, and I felt like I was at home again. Book your Clydeside Distillery tour to see for yourself how distilling has returned to Glasgow.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Glasgow, check out these Glasgow hotels.