Whisky.com Complete Guide to Scotch Whisky

St. Magdalene Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Site of the Former Distillery
Linlithgow, West Lothian
EH49 6AQ Scotland
Viewer's Comments about St. Magdalene

St. Magdalene Rare Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 1975Linlithgow was a centre of milling and malting in the seventeenth century, and for brewing and distilling in the eighteenth. The raw materials for these processes were close at hand: barley in the Lothians, and inexhaustible local sources of water. "The vast copiousness of water at Linlithgow", Black's Picturesque Tourist of Scotland noted in 1844, "is alluded to in the following well-known rhyme: "Lithgow for wells, Glasgow for bells, Peebles for clashes and lees and Falkirk for beans and peas."

The distillery's early history is obscure. It is said to have been founded in the eighteenth century by Sebastian Henderson, on the lands of St. Magdalene's Cross, the former site of an annual fair and of St. Magdalene Hospital (which treated lepers). Adam Dawson of Bonnytoun was the licensed distiller in 1797. He was the spokesman of the Lowland distillers in their campaign against the exemptions granted to Highland distillers by the Board of Excise. The Dawsons were also brewers and maltsters. A list of Scottish brewers in 1825 included Adam Dawson, Bathgate Brewery, and Adam & John Dawson, West End, Linlithgow. A & J Dawson succeeded Adam Dawson at St. Magdalene in 1829.

Colonel Ramage Dawson, the managing partner for many years, died in 1892. He had other interests such as the estate of Balladn, Kinross-shire, where he resided, "extensive and valuable coffee plantations in Ceylon", and the colonelcy of the Haddiagton Artillery. St. Magdalene's ownership by a private company did not long survive him.

A. & J. Dawson was incorporated as a limited liability company on 6 November 1894. It had a capital of £70,000 divided into 2,800 preference and 4,200 ordinary shares of £10. The first directors were J. A. Ramage Dawson, J. M. Crabbie, spirit merchant of Leith, and George Robertson, wine merchant of Edinburgh.

Additions to the buildings and improvements in the equipment were made from time to time to meet increasing demand for the product. Then intense competition among the Lowland distillers brought about an unfavorable turn in the company's affairs. On 17 April 1912, creditors presented a petition to wind up A. & J. Dawson Ltd. on the ground that it was insolvent and unable to pay its debts. A liquidator was accordingly appointed. The Distiller's Company Limited of Edinburgh was offered the opportunity to buy the distillery, either on its own account or in partnership with others. Eventually it agreed to acquire all assets and to assume all liabilities, on certain conditions.

A new company, also called A. & J. Dawson Ltd. was incorporated on 16 November 1912 with a capital of £60,000, divided into 20,000 preference shares, all taken up by J.A. Ramage Dawson and 40,000 ordinary shares, taken up by him, the Distillers Company Limited and John Walker and Sons Ltd., Scotch whisky blenders of Kilmarnock. The new owners opened up negotiations with other Lowland distillers which resulted in the amalgamation of five Lowland distillery companies, including Dawson's, as Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd., in July of 1914.

Loch Lomond
The Loch Lomond

St Magdalene closed in 1983 and was sold for residential development with some of the buildings converted into apartments. At the time of its closing, it was within the Diageo portfolio.

The majority of the output of St. Magdalene Distillery was used for blending. Sometimes recognized as Linlithgow Distillery, its house style has been desribed as a fine Lowland malt which is perfumed and grassy.

Courtesy of Diageo Scotland



Linlithgow 1982 Bottling Note

Linlithgow is distilled at the St Magdalene distillery in the Lowlands. This was distilled on the 5th October 1982 and matured for 26 years in wine treated butt number 2200 before bottling on the 3rd June 2009. A release of just 225 bottles at an impressive cask strength.


St. Magdalene Whisky Distillery
St. Magdalene Distillery

The front of St. Magdalene Distillery was situated upon the main road from Edinburgh to Stirling. The economy of its communications must have been immensely enhanced by the completion in 1822 of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal, and by the opening of Linlithgow Station on the railway line linking the two cities in 1842. Alfred Barnard, a perceptive observer, noted in The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, in 1887, that St. Magdalene had its own wharf on the canal, which runs along the back of the distillery, for unloading barge-borne coke and coal. Water from the canal was used for driving an overshot water-wheel for supplying steam and for fire-fighting.

The movement of raw materials was largely merchandised. The main means of power must have been the "handsome beam engine of 20 h.p.", which almost certainly drove the malt mill, the mashing machine and the heavy stirring gear in the mash-tuns. One donkey engine drove the switchers in the washbacks and another was used for pumping. The water wheel worked the rummagers in the wash stills. A gas engine of 2 h.p. supplied the power for hoisting barley to the top of the West Maltings which had five storeys: one used as a granuary, two as malting floors and two as duty-free warehouses. The East Maltings was smaller with four storeys. There was a total of 19 warehouses, including one of the "enormous proportions", built in brick on the other side of the Edinburgh road where there was frontage of 600 feet to the railway.

A trade journal reported in 1927 that SMD had equipped the distillery with the most effective labour-saving appliances, all driven by electricity. Malting was carried out on open floors, by manual techniques, and mechanically, in pneumatic drums. Samples of barley on offer to all SMD distilleries were tested in a laboratory on the premises. The maltings continued to work throughout the economic depression of the 1930s when production of of whisky at St. Magdalene and many other distilleries ceased for many years.

Distillation was was restarted after the end WWII. The furnaces of St. Magdalene's four pot stills, which had previously been fired by hand, were equipped with a mechanical coal stoking system in 1961. Coal, which had been carried on the canal before the war, was delivered by road until 1971, when the stills were converted to internal heating by steam from an oil-fired boiler. Casks of whisky were sent by road to Bathgate Station and barley was delivered by the same means in reverse until 1968, when SMD began to supply its Lowland distilleries with malt made at its large modern mechanised maltings at Glenesk Distillery, near Montrose. St. Magdalene's maltings then went out of use.

St. Magdalene takes its process water from Linlithgow's domestic supply, which comes from the Loch Lomond. The distillery has its own reservoir on the other side of the canal. Water from the canal is use for cooling purposes only.

The distillery was closed in 1983 due to overproduction and has since been redeveloped for residential use.

Courtesy of Diageo Scotland

Comments on this Whisky                                                      page 1 of 1
Click here to add a comment
Dr Russ
Posted 2036 days ago
'Col Ramage Dawson' is John Ramage Dawson (1832-28 Nov 1892) and
'J A Ramage Dawson' is James Anderson Ramage Dawon (1866-1944)
Dr Russ
Posted 2036 days ago
'Col Ramage Dawson' is John Ramage Dawson (1832-28 Nov 1892)