Aberfeldy Distillery was built by John Dewar and & Sons of Perth.
This firm had been set up originally by John Dewar who was born the son of a crofter at Shenavail, set high above the valley some two miles east of Abedeldy. Although he started life as a joiner, John Dewar soon went into partnership with a relative in the wine and spirit trade in Perth, going into business on his own in 1846.
It is said that John Dewar was one of the first to produce and market a 'blend' whisky. In around 1850 he began to bottle, under his own brand label, a distinctive whisky made by blending together a 'malt' (the product of an individual distillery) with a 'grain' whisky (made by a different and cheaper process).
The firm was very successful, taking good advantage of the increase in whisky drinking which resulted from the disastrous ravages of a vine louse, unwittingly imported from North America, which devastated the supply of Brandy and Wine from France.
The original John Dewar died in 1880 and was succeeded by his sons Alexander and Tommy. It was Tommy who made the name of Dewar known world wide. He was an extrovert and showman whose escapades were not appreciated by his competitors, but by 1894 his enterprise had established 32 agents in no fewer than 26 countries. By this time, the firm had built a new headquarters next to the railway station in Perth from which a private siding led to their premises. Accordingly, Aberfeldy Distillery was also built next to the railway.
The company records note that the door-to-door link 'proved an immense boon in the dispatch and receipt of goods'. This Distillery was opened in 1898, replacing the earlier site a mile further up the PitilieBurn. Apart from its proximity to the railway, the choice of site was also determined by the demands, common to all malt distilleries, for large quantities of good water. Barley is the other essential ingredient of Malt Whisky.
Although some barley was always imported from other areas, particularly Alyth and Perth, some was provided by local farms; Tirinie, Pittilie and Bainagard are mentioned in the distillery records for the early 1900's.
The central portion of the distillery buildings - the tower known as 'the pagoda' - housed the malting floor. Nowadays barley is not malted at the distillery but is produced by companies specialising in the process who can make the barley to exactly the requirements of any particular distillery.
There is still, however, a close relationship between farming and distilling in the area. Malting barley is still a major crop grown by local farms and sent to the big malting plants. The old malting floor in the distillery now houses a plant producing 'Dark Grains' - a high protein animal feeding stuff - from the waste products of the distilling process. In addition the distillery treats its own effluent and the residue is sprayed on the fields of a local farm as fertiliser.
In such a small community, the distillery has always been a major employer, providing work for as many as 24 men at its peak. At present 21 people are employed, including some who work as visitor guides.
In the 1920's the distillery built five houses across the road, still occupied by distillery workers. In addition to providing a living for the 21 families, the maintenance of the distillery gives work to many local tradesmen including plumbers, electricians, builders, painters and tree surgeons. (The row of oak trees along the road was planted with government funds to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee).
Free Guided Tours on Monday to Friday from 10.00-16.00 Easter - October (Winter times on application).
At busy times there might be a 20 minute wait but more usually a maximum of 10 minutes. Allow 1 hour for the full tour.
Children must be accompanied.