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 - 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.
In 1826 Wolfburns annual production was 28,056 “Total Gallons of Proof Spirt” – roughly 125,000 litres.
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.
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.
Wolfburn's original founder, William Smith, passed away in 1845. For the next decade and a half the distillery stayed in the ownership of the Smith family, who employed a tenant manager. But in the 1860s it changed hands, and the evidence suggests equipment was not maintained nor replaced. In the space of just a few years the distillery began to decline.
In 1872 the first Ordnance Survey map of the region was published and this showed the distillery to be in ruin.
Planning is submitted for the new Wolfburn Distillery.
Wolfburn Distilley is designed and built by Forsyths of Rothes. Shane Fraser joins from Glenfarclas.
After 150 years Wolfburn goes back on spirit on Burns Night - 25 January. Iain Kerr joins from Glenlivet.
The first peated Wolfburn spirit is laid down.
The last cask is laid down in warehouse number 1.
Northland, our first single malt scotch whisky is bottled on site and released.
Wolfburn Distillery continues to expand with the construction of warehouse 3.
January 25th 2018. 5 years to the day since we filled our first cask.
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.