In 1936, Canadian distiller Hiram Walker-Gooderham Worts purchased the whisky blending company George Ballantine & Sons, giving it sizeable stocks of mature whisky and an established brand (Ballantine’s), but no distilleries. Hiram Walker was established to oversee Scottish operations, and built Dumbarton distillery in the Lowland regions of Scotland. When Dumbarton began distilling in 1938, it was the largest continuous distillery in Scotland producing grain whisky. It was also the first to introduce American-style stainless steel columns, rather than copper stills.
Immortalised in history are the ‘Scotch Watch’, a gaggle of around 100 Chinese white geese introduced by Hiram Walker in 1959 to protect Dumbarton from intruders. The geese stayed when Dumbarton closed in 2002, though 10 years later the remaining seven birds were at last retired and sent to live with an existing flock at Glasgow Green. The buildings have since been demolished to make way for a new housing development including, most sadly including the site’s iconic red tower.
Dumbarton’s whisky was mostly reserved for the Ballantine’s blend and was never bottled as a single grain. Nonetheless, some independent bottlings have emerged from Douglas Laing and Hunter Laing.