Clynelish was founded in 1819, established by the Marquis of Stafford who, after marrying into the Sutherland family, became the first Duke of Sutherland. The distillery was initially intended to take some proportion of local whisky supply away from the area’s smuggling fraternity.
After purchase in 1896 by James Ainslie & Heilbron, a Glasgow-based blending company, the distillery was rebuilt and still retains the floor maltings and kiln that were then installed. In 1967, a build commenced on a new distillery, also named Clynelish, located just across the road from the original Clynelish. The build was completed a year later and the former Clynelish distillery was renamed Brora in 1969. The name derives from the Old Norse ‘Bru’r aa’ meaning ‘the bridges river’.
Brora was purchased in 1930 by Scottish Malt Distillers, who later became a subsidiary of Diageo. Closed May of 1983, the buildings that made up the Brora distillery are now used by the new Clynelish distillery as a visitor centre and warehouse. Clynelish remains active with a large capacity of 4.2m litres per annum thanks to a seven day working week.