Glenmorangie   Glenmorangie Logo

Soon after 1830 Glenmorangie itself seems to have been established. The ownership of the lands of Morangie had remained with the Ross family despite various vicissitudes. In 1811, it came into the hands of David Ross, a merchant resident in Calcutta who was only interested in extracting the rents from the lands. The mills of Morangie, which had been separated from the rest of the estate since the Reformation, had passed into the hands of the MacLeods of Cadboll and leased by them to various tenants. Traditionally, it was during this period of tenancy that a brewery was established at Morangie.

From the late 1830's they have a description of the site at Morangie prepared by the local minister, the Rev Charles Mackintosh, for inclusion in the New Statistical Account of Scotland. This mentions that the Morangie Burn was used to power a sawmill, a carding mill (for wool), a meal mill and a dyeing mill, all spaced within a one hundred yard length of its course, as well as providing water for the brewery.

In the early 1840's the tenancy of Morangie Farm was taken up by a certain William Matheson. Since the late 1820's he had been a partner in the Balbair Distillery at Edderton. He first applied for and acquired his license to distil in 1843, but it was not until November 1849 that he began to produce whisky.

Matheson had simply converted the old brewery building into his distillery, and this was to remain at the heart of the operation until its eventual replacement by the main part of the present structure at the end of the 19th Century. He had plans for the development of his premises, but these had never quite managed to get off the drawing board. According to Alfred Barnard's description of his visit to the distillery in the 1880's, the original brewery building had been constructed in 1738, and was still standing - although in a dilapidated condition - at the time of his visit. Barnard seemed amazed that Matheson was still using pot stills of a very old-fashioned style and yet managed to produce about 20000 gallons of whisky each year.

William Matheson's chief obstacle was a chronic shortage of free capital to invest in the new buildings, plant and machinery which he needed. It was not to be until 1887 with the formation of the Glenmorangie Distillery Company that these plans were to come to fruition, too late for Matheson himself to benefit. In 1860 his eldest daughter, Barbara, married Duncan Cameron, the local agent in Tain of the Commercial Bank, and who emerged in 1887 as one of the principals of the new company.

Nevertheless, the distillery seems to have established a reasonably high reputation and was already selling widely throughout Britain when Barnard visited it. Indeed, by the 1880's it had started to export overseas, with Inverness Advertiser reporting that a consignment of Glenmorangie had been seen en-route for San Francisco, while another load destined for Rome aroused humorous speculation that perhaps even the Pope had recognised the merits of 'the Mountain Dew of Easter Ross'.

Although Glenmorangie now possesses the Tarlogie Springs from which it draws its supply, in 1843 the water-rights lay with the Rosses, owners of the Tarlogie estate, and there were other users also drawing supplies from the stream. In the late 1840's Tain had begun to expand to the point where its ancient water supplies were no longer adequate for modern requirements and in early 1851 it had been decided to pipe in water from the Fuaran Burn, but at a council meeting in May it was suggested that a better supply might be obtained from the Tarlogie Springs. A delegation headed by the baillie visited the springs and reported that they deemed it a suitable source for the town's supply. It was noted in the Council Minutes that '...the Committee have not followed the stream throughout but have reason to believe that it flows to the sea past the great stone at Morangie and it is not appropriated to any useful purpose...', a comment which would not have amused Mr Matheson!

Preparations were made for a full inquiry into ownership of the springs and Andrew Maitland Snr, the founder of the local architectural firm, was directed to cost and plan the catchment tanks and pipeline. Luckily for Glenmorangie, May, June and July 1851 were exceptionally dry and on a subsequent visit the Tarlogie springs were 'found to be much diminished and not to be calculated on for a permanent supply', while the previous choice, the Fuaran Burn, had not appreciably diminished. The plans for piping from Tarlogie were therefore quietly shelved and the distillery's supply made safe.