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Whisky Artefacts #7 - Aberdeen Distillery on Fire, September 27th 1904

News of a distillery on fire captures the attention, in a twisted kind of way. Imagining the sounds of buckling metal and exploding casks, or the smells of 700,000 gallons of burning whisky tends to bring out the rubbernecker in all of us. This seems to be the case when North of Scotland Distillery in Aberdeen went up in flames, and there seems to have been money in it.


The postmark tells us that Miss Williamson of Auchterless was sent her photographic proof just two days after the night of the fire, so the photographer, printer and retailer clearly saw opportunity in disaster.


There is a second view of the tragedy, which was sent to Chesterfield just a week later.


Furthermore, a beautiful image of a steam fire engine also was produced (one hopes this was taken after the fire was under control). It reminds us that the mechanical elements of the distilleries would have been driven by coal, flame, and steam, with all the accompanying fire hazards that would have brought.


In these postcards this unfortunate distillery is named North of Scotland, but it was also referred to as Bon Accord Distillery in the records. The losses listed would have been approximately twice its annual production capacity, but this was not even the worst recorded in its history. It closed forever in 1913.


A distillery or warehouse on fire is not uncommon, viewed in the slow timescale of the whisky industry. Wild Turkey in 2000, Heaven Hill in 1996, Talisker Distillery and Glasgow's Cheapside in 1960 or Banff Distillery in 1877, 1941 and 1991. We roll our eyes when tour guides tell us not to use cameras in the stillhouse, but when your job is to produce highly flammable liquids and store them for long periods of time, then over-cautiousness is a sensible state of being.