Awakening Annandale's Past

A unique collaborative project involving experts from across the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts is reviving one of Scotland’s most iconic lost whisky distilleries.

The Annandale Distillery (pictured above) in Dumfriesshire has been dormant since 1919. However, thanks to three projects led by University academics, all this is changing; whisky will be produced in Annan once more.

For new distillery owner, Prof David Thomson, the resurrection is far more than a business investment. Having grown up in the area, the distillery symbolizes a re-development of a place that he holds a great deal of passion for. To help him achieve this, teams from the College of Arts have been working with David to restore, not only the buildings, but also the lost history and culture of the Annandale Distillery.

“Developing Annandale back to a working distillery will bring investment, tourism and jobs into to the area,” says David. “However, also key for me is the opportunity to reconnect the distillery with the history of Annandale so that it also holds meaning for the locals of Annan.”

Since David took over the site in 2007 the renovation project has been a long and difficult journey, and a journey that input from the College of Arts has certainly made easier and more rewarding.

Initially, in the absence of any detailed paperwork and drawings, the layout and uses of the various outbuildings on-site was difficult to ascertain. “As it was intended that the distillery was to become a tourism destination and point of historical significance, it was important to account correctly for the buildings as they are now and as they might have been in the past,” said David.

To chart the physical history of the site, Dr John Atkinson and a team from Archaeology, in the School of Humanities, embarked on a three-month investigation, drawing up a detailed report tracing the evolution of the buildings. This report, facilitated by pump-priming funding via a First Step Award from the University of Glasgow’s Innovation Network, was used to inform the development decisions in advance of planning applications.

However, just as important for David was the chance to tell the story of the distillery through the ages. He set to work alongside Prof Ted Cowan in Scottish History to build up a history of then area and ensure that the volumes of information pertaining to Annan were made available to the public. After much painstaking research an Innovation Voucher was facilitated via Interface so that the public visiting the Distillery could learn more about the history of the area.

Finally, a project with Prof John Corbett of the School of Critical Studies was established to provide information vital to the development of the distillery’s brand and marketing. Praising the work of everyone at the College of Arts and the vision of David in making this venture a success, Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, Prof Gerry Carruthers (School of Critical Studies), said: “David and Annandale Distillery Ltd are an excellent example of how small developing companies can tap into the rich knowledge base available via the College of Arts”. 

Speaking about the collaboration, David said: “Parallel to my passion for an excellent Single Malt Whisky is my passion for Robert Burns. I’m looking forward to working closely with the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, to develop a cohesive and compelling brand for Annandale Distillery. On top of this I would like to record my appreciation of the College of Arts for their vital help to the development of the Annandale Distillery, I know that we will stay committed partners.”

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