Story

The Past

Origins...

In 1821 William Smith founded a distillery on the outskirts of Thurso and named it Wolfburn after the watercourse it drew from, “burn” being the Scots word for stream or small river.

The distillery was constructed from hardy local Caithness flagstone and the remains of its foundations can still be seen today. Smith invested heavily in Wolfburn and it quickly became a significant producer of malt whisky – tax records from the early 19th Century show it being the largest distillery in Caithness. In 1826 its annual production was 28,056 “Total Gallons of Proof Spirt” – roughly 125,000 litres.

The new Wolfburn distillery building is just a short walk along the burn from the old site towards the sea.

First and last whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland

Always natural colour, never chill filtered

Inspired by history

Smith invested heavily in Wolfburn and it quickly became a significant producer of malt whisky – tax records from the early 19th Century show it being the largest distillery in Caithness.

William Smith signature
William Smith - original founder

Lost in time...

Wolfburn distillery was kept in the Smith family until at least the 1850s, when production seems to have ceased. The exact date of its closing is lost in time, with some records indicating that it may still have been producing whisky in the 1860s. In 1872 the first Ordnance Survey map of the region was published and this showed the distillery to be in ruin, yet in 1877 when the next edition of the map was released the words ‘in ruins’ had been removed. It may be that the distillery worked intermittently towards the end of its past life.

1826

In 1826 Wolfburns annual production was 28,056 “Total Gallons of Proof Spirt” – roughly 125,000 litres.

1850’s

Wolfburn's two stills are working overtime along with at least ten other distilleries in Caithness as the Herring boom reaches its peak. More than forty pubs are operating in nearby Wick.

1860’s

Boom and bust for many in Caithness as many smaller distilleries close and others prosper. Todholes, Brawlbin, Gerston and Thurso to name a few. A golden age for Caithness distilling.

1860’s

With the death of Wolfburn’s original founder, William Smith, in 1845 and his long absence prior to this fighting overseas with the 78th Regiment of foot Wolfburn changes hands and starts to decline.

1872

In 1872 the first Ordnance Survey map of the region was published and this showed the distillery to be in ruin.

The reawakening

The Wolfburn logo

The Wolfburn logo was designed in 2011 and is taken from a drawing by Conrad Gessner, the 16th Century linguist and zoologist, and appears in his work The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents. In Gessner’s day the wolf was a common sight in the far north of Scotland and on the coast it was said to have a supernatural relative: the sea-wolf.

The sea-wolf is also said to bring good luck to all those fortunate enough to see it.

Wolfburn seawolf logo
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