A brief history….
If you’ve been following the news from Stirling Gin you probably already know about the construction of our new home. It may have been a year between purchase and breaking new ground but renovations are well underway and we are taking care to maintain as many of the original Victorian elements as possible. This is not about simple aesthetics – Stirling is steeped in some of Scotland’s most sensational history and our distillery site certainly holds its own.
While the current structure was established in 1888 there is evidence to suggest that the site was in use as early as the 1500s. Through some historical sluicing we have deduced that the castle housed its horses, stables and stable workers on Lower Castlehill during the reign of King James V. James ruled Scotland from 1512 to 1542 and was known to travel the country disguised as a common man, earning him the nickname “King of the Commons”. He was an avowed Catholic and dealt with heretics by burning them at the stake and he used the money collected from their coffers to improve the defences of Stirling Castle.
After the 1541 death of his mother Margaret Tudor, a daughter of English King Henry VII, the need for ongoing peace between Scotland and England was removed and James put together a plan of invasion. Despite reluctance from his noblemen, James and his army won a significant victory at the Battle of Haddon Rig but they were ultimately defeated at the Battle of Solway Moss three months later. James ended his days in the Kingdom of Fife in December of 1542 and his six day old daughter, the future Mary Queen of Scots, officially took the throne.
The map below, dated from 1824, shows the very spot where James’ horses were stabled. It also shows the fated site for Stirling’s first distillery.
The rest of Stirling Distillery’s history may be slightly less illustrious but it is no less interesting. When the permanent structure was built in 1888 it was used as a church temperance society hall. No, the irony is not lost on us. Scottish temperance came to the fore after the London-based gin craze of the 1700s and was partly due to easily accessible Scotch that was cheaper than French wine of brandy. The most powerful temperance movements were mainly concentrated in Aberdeenshire, fishing villages along the east coast and Glasgow but Stirling certainly had its small numbers.
Unsurprisingly, the temperance hall was swiftly transformed into a public school and we have received numerous messages from Stirling locals who had older family members attending classes there. Next up came a wireless repair shop which was then followed by a local blacksmith taking ownership and the building earning its well-known nickname “The Old Smiddy”. After its smithing days were done in the early 2000s the site sat empty until water damage from sagging gutters induced the council to replace the roof in 2016. And that is when we came onto the scene.
Who could blame us for wanting to keep the building as unchanged as possible? Few distilleries have seen such radically different histories pass through their doors. We intend to celebrate our roots and if you would like to learn more about 9 Lower Castlehill, you’ll just have to come for a tour.
Or you could Join the Journey and be a part of our unique history. Membership gets you a special edition bottle of our first distillation, a tour for two, your name engraved on our commemorative glass plate in the distillery and first refusal on new products and casks.