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.

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The new Wolfburn distillery building is just a short walk along the burn from the old site towards the sea.

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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.

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Thurso is the most northerly town on the British mainland with records dating back to Viking times, when it was under Norse Orcadian rule and a major gateway to Scandinavia and the Northern Isles. The area is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to internationally important colonies of sea bird

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Thurso Bay and the distillery overlook the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth towards the imposing cliffs of the Orcadian Island of Hoy – on a clear day the Old Man of Hoy can be seen in the far distance. The Thurso area was inhabited long before the Vikings arrived to give it its name.

In May 2011 one of our team went to locate the site of the old Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso, Caithness. After 150 years of neglect what we found was a barely discernible pile of stones, but one thing remained from the yesteryears of Wolfburn distillery; the water. The cold clear waters that fed the mash tun and stills all those years ago were still flowing just as they always had, and if the Wolf Burn was still there then we reckoned the whisky could be too.

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A short walk downstream from the old site we found a small flat piece of land carpeted with thistles. We could take just a little of the water each day and once again turn it into whisky. The purchase of the land was finalized in May 2012 and the first ground was broken a few months later in early August. Things were on the move, plans were being drawn up, equipment was being sourced from far and wide and by the end of September the structures of the new buildings were beginning to take shape.

Wolfburn’s smooth and warming flavour stems from the unhurried way in which the spirit is made. Long fermentation is followed by gentle distillation, before the spirit is laid down in the best quality oak casks. Our warehouses are beautifully dark and cool, providing the perfect environment for the spirit to mature into world-class single malt whisky.

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Designed from the ground up to be efficient and at the same time traditional, Wolfburn Distillery has no automation and from milling through to bottling everything is done on site by hand with care and attention.

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Designed from the ground up to be efficient and at the same time traditional, Wolfburn Distillery has no automation and from milling through to bottling everything is done on site by hand with care and attention.

https://www.summertonclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Untitled-1_0001_Wolfburn_warehouse1_wideangle_lowres.jpg

Designed from the ground up to be efficient and at the same time traditional, Wolfburn Distillery has no automation and from milling through to bottling everything is done on site by hand with care and attention.

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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.

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DISTILLERY INFO

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NAME

Wolfburn Distillery

ADDRESS

Henderson Park,
Thurso, Caithness,
Scotland
KW14 7XW

WEBSITE

https://wolfburn.com

DATE ESTABLISHED

2013

ANNUAL CAPACITY (l)

125,000

WATER SOURCE

The Wolfburn

MALT SPECIFICATIONS

Concerto

MALT SOURCE

Various

YEAST TYPE

Anchor

GRIST WEIGHT

1.1

MASH TUN TYPE

Semi Lauter

WORT CLARITY

Clear worts

WASHBACKS (QUANTITY)

4

WASHBACKS (SIZE)

5,500L

WASHBACK TYPE

Stainless Steel

FERMENTATION TIME

67-92 hours

WASH STILLS (QUANTITY)

1

WASH STILLS CHARGE (L)

5,500

SPIRIT STILLS (QUANTITY)

1

SPIRIT STILL CHARGE (L)

3,800

CONDENSER TYPE

Shell and Tube

NEW MAKE STRENGTH

73%

FILLING STRENGTH

63.5%

WAREHOUSING

On site – Traditional Dunnage