The 150-Year-Old Invention That Created A Whisky Like No Other

If you’re a whisky drinker, you’ll know that a good single malt Scotch leads the pack when it comes to choosing a quality bottle.

What you may not know is that single malt Scotch – meaning produced at just one distillery in Scotland – is the result of hundreds of years of innovation and technological advances.

In fact, it can be traced back to one man’s mission to refine the whisky-making process at the Glen Grant distillery in Scotland, way back in the 1800s.

This is the story of how James ‘The Major’ Grant ushered in a new era that helped lead Scotch whisky to become revered across the globe.

Unlawful Beginnings

Illegal whisky producers had popped up all over Scotland by 1823, until the government introduced fairer laws and taxes, turning one-time smugglers into entrepreneurs and innovators.

Taking advantage of these favourable changes were the Grant Brothers John and James, who sought one of Scotland’s finest locations for barley and highland water to set up a distillery.

Glen Grant was born, and the family quickly gained a reputation for invention – and not just for the whisky.

They helped bring the industrial age to Speyside and championed the first major railroad in 1851.

A decade later, they also installed the North’s first engine house, becoming the first distillery in the area with electric light.


A Whisky Revolution

By 1872 both founding Grant brothers had passed away and John’s nephew, James ‘The Major’ Grant, inherited the business and really pushed ahead with the technological advances.

In search of malt whisky perfection, The Major invented unique purifiers to be used in the distillation process that ensured only the lightest, most complex flavours developed into spirit.

He was also one of the first to design tall, slender pot stills for this stage in the whisky-making process. Together with the purifiers, they delivered a uniquely smooth and delicate style of malt whisky.

To this day, Glen Grant remains the only distillery in Scotland’s whisky region of Speyside to complete the entire whisky-making process on one site – from barley to bottle.

Always forward-thinking and unconventional, The Major continued his family’s reputation for innovation by becoming the first owner of a motor car in the Scottish Highlands.


Major Legacy

The Major passed away aged 84 in 1931, but his legacy of running one of the most famous distilleries in the world lived on, with the appointment of his grandson, Douglas Mackessack, as custodian of the business.

Also a Major in the military, Mackessack expanded the brand into new markets beyond British shores.

In 1961, Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm started his first job at the distillery as an apprentice cooper. Since then, Malcolm has dedicated his life to maintaining the quality and integrity of Glen Grant.

Even His Royal Highness Prince Charles stopped by to open the new bottling hall in 2013, giving Glen Grant the royal seal of approval.

And if you’re wondering, only whisky produced in Scotland like Glen Grant can use the term ‘Scotch whisky’ on the bottle – a matter enshrined in law and subject to strict standards.

This article is brought to you by Glen Grant, who are giving away $30,000 to help an Australian business bring their sustainable technology idea to life! Enter here for your chance to win the Gizmodo x Business Insider New Technologies Grant.

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