ONE OF Speyside's leading distilleries is to close with the loss of more than 30 jobs after a review by a major whisky producer.
The Edrington Group plans to put its Tamdhu distillery and maltings in Aberlour in "care and maintenance" from April.
It will then concentrate production at its three core distilleries – The Macallan in Craigellachie, Glenrothes in Rothes and Highland Park in Orkney. Glenturret distillery in Crieff is unaffected by the proposals.
Tamdhu, meaning "little dark hill" in Gaelic, was founded in 1897 and currently employs 20 staff.
The company said the planned changes would result in a net reduction of up to 31 jobs from Tamdhu, The Macallan, Glenrothes, Highland Park and Buchley warehouses in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, with some leaving through voluntary redundancy and others being relocated.
In a statement, the company said: "Whilst Edrington's brands continue to perform well in international markets, and the group is confident about returning to growth in the medium term, the current economic downturn has flattened sales over the past year.
"There are early signs of stability returning to the group's markets. However, the downturn has required Edrington to rebalance its distillation capacity."
Graham Hutcheon, group operations director, said that the proposed package of measures was designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of Edrington's Scotch whisky operations.
"It would allow us to ensure that our business is the right size and shape to support current and future activity levels."
Chief executive Ian Curle said the company remained confident about its long-term prospects though it was adopting a cautious approach.
Edrington employs about 2,200 people across the globe, with 840 in Scotland. It has invested over 42 million in its Scottish operations in the last five years.
The group owns the leading blended whisky, the Famous Grouse and other brands such as Cutty Sark and Brugal rum.
The news was greeted with disappointment last night.
John Russell, chair of Moray Council's economic development committee, said: "This is very bad news for staff who will be losing their jobs, particularly as the area offers very little alternative employment."
Moray MP Angus Robertson said: "It is important that those who are affected by these job losses are given as much support as possible in the coming weeks and months."
TYCOON GRANT WAS THE SPIRIT BEHIND TAMDHU
WHISKY tycoon William Grant was the driving force behind the creation of Tamdhu distillery, buying land beside the Knockando Burn, north of the River Spey, in 1896.
Grant, director of Highland Distillers, raised 19,200 from 15 partners including Robertson & Baxter, to fund his new venture. Designed by architect Charles Doig, of Elgin, it was commissioned in the summer of 1897.
Despite disputes over water sources, by June 1898 the distillery had produced 214,476 gallons of good quality malt whisky.
The distillery was closed for the 1911 and 1912 whisky distilling seasons due to the decline in demand, then reopened output until 1925. In 1928, Tamdhu fell silent again, this time reopening in 1947 and in the post-war period the whisky built up a strong reputation among blenders. The number of stills increased from two to four in 1972 and there was a further expansion to six in 1975.