Following my recent Haig Whisky Club blog articles on the Haig and Jameson Whiskey Cousins and the drive to conserve and protect the original Haig Whisky Distillery in the Kennetpans, Clackmannanshire, I was delighted to receive an invitation to attend the Clackmannanshire Whisky event at the Alloa Tower next Thursday 14 May.
Clackmannanshire and in particular, the Kennetpans, Alloa and Kilbagie, can rightly be considered as the birthplace of the Scotch Whisky Industry. Clackmannanshire or Clacks was the home of the Stein, Haig and Jameson families all of whom had a significant impact and influence on scaling of commercial Scotch whisky distillation from local artisan whisky production to an international export industry in the 19th century.
The Steins, Haigs and Jamesons
The Steins, Haigs and Jamesons all lived within a few miles of each other and as they moved in the same business and social circles, it was natural that the families intermarried. I have written about this previously in my blog article ‘Haig Whisky and Jameson Irish Whiskey – A History of the Whisky Cousins‘.
The Steins were the innovators and financiers who brought the Haigs into the world of big business. Robert Stein of Kilbagie had developed the first continuous or column still which allowed the more efficient mass production of double distilled grain whisky on a commercial scale. Stein’s initial design had limited success, but in 1830, a much improved version was patented by an Irish Whiskey entrepreneur Aeneas Coffey. To this day, Scottish and Irish grain whiskies such as Haig Club, Teeling and Kilbeggan / Greenore are all made using the exact same continuous double distillation process. The Column Stills used to make the spirit for grain whisky are now commonly known as “Coffey” Stills.
The Haigs were natural business net-workers who learned fast. Having inter-married with the Stein’s, the two families began to build an extensive network of loosely related but competing whisky distilleries in Scotland and Ireland.
The Jameson Irish Whiskey Dynasty
After the local 28 year old Sheriff Clerk John Jameson married Margaret Haig, they moved to Dublin to work with a Haig – Stein Distillery. After some years, John Jameson took ownership of this Dublin Bow Street distillery and so was born the Jameson Irish Whiskey dynasty. John Jameson’s success was based on his devotion to quality in raw materials, production values and staff welfare. In the cut and thrust of 19th century industrial Europe, many thought that his modern and long term vision would fail. But his passion for high standards over quick profit prevailed and his ethos is still the hall mark of Irish Whiskey today. Jameson used better quality ingredients, payed his staff better, triple distilled rather than double distilled and had much longer maturation times than his competitors, many of whom aged their whisky for just the minimum time required by law.
Haig Distillery Ruins at Kennetpans
The ruins of the first commercial Haig Distillery at Kennetpans are still extant and thanks to the valiant efforts of the Kennetpans Trust and Clackmannanshire Business, support is being secured through Historic Scotland and the Forth Landscape Initiative to begin restoration work on one of the Scotch whisky industries most significant historic buildings.
Clackmannanshire Whisky Trail
There are also plans to create a Clackmannanshire Whisky Trail and Clackmannanshire Council will host a Whisky Exhibition at the Speirs Centre in Alloa through June and July 2015.
I understand that further announcements will be made at the reception in Alloa Tower next Thursday on the development of Whisky Heritage Tourism in Clackmannanshire, the birthplace of the Scottish Whisky Industry which is today worth over £4.2 Billion to the the Scottish economy.
So, well done to all in Alloa, Kilbagie and Clacks! The Stein’s, Haigs and Jamesons would be rightly proud of your wonderful work in preserving both Scottish Whisky and Irish Whiskey Heritage.
Here at the Haig Whisky Club, we are delighted to support you in whatever way we can.
Stuart McNamara, President Haig Whisky Club