Hallowe’en Special: Distillery Ghost Stories

let’s begin

Tis the season for carving pumpkins and telling ghost stories around the fire, with a hot chocolate in hand to keep away the coming winter chills.


If you’re looking for a good tale to scare your friends, why not borrow a few from some old distilleries.

With some distilleries dating as far back as the 1700s, there has been plenty of time for lots of scary stuff to happen.

First off, Glen Spey Distillery, a small and somewhat unknown little place, nestled in the hills of Speyside.

The distillery, like many, was used to temporarily lodge soldiers during the second world war and it was during this time that one such soldier met a tragic end.

While enjoy his surroundings, the unknown soldier was accidently electrocuted and died.  It is said that his spirit still roams the grounds of Glen Spey every night, still wearing his uniform and carrying his rifle as if ready for battle.

If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine then listen to the tale of Kilbeggan Distillery in Ireland.

One of the oldest distilleries in the world, Kilbeggan dates back to 1757.  Since 2007 there have been reports of an intimidating figure wondering across the courtyard, decked in black robes.

There have also been a number of strange sounds that occur late at night, from creaking floorboards to hushed whispers.

The ghost of the distillery’s original owner Matthew McManus is also said to haunt the old buildings, alongside his son John, whose spirit exists in anger at his execution at the hands of the British in 1798 for breaking curfew and allegedly being a member of the United Irishmen.

But not all ghosts come for haunting purposes.  In fact it would appear that a lot of ghosts who hang about distilleries are there for kindly purposes.

Take Glenrothes, not far from Glen Spey, for example.  Founded in 1878, there is a lot of history here and with a cemetery just down the road, a spirit was bound to appear sooner or later!

In 1894 Major James Grant, owner of Glen Grant Distillery, was on a hunting trip in Makalanga, Africa when he came across a young boy who had been abandoned in the bush.

The boy’s family could not be found and Grant was kind enough to take him in and bring him home to Scotland.  Named Biawa, pronounced Bye-Way, he grew up in the village of Rothes, attending the local school and later working as Grant’s Butler.

He became a familiar face around Rothes and when Grant died, the major’s will provided Biawa with a room at Glen Grant House, coal from the distillery and meals at the local hotel.

He lived for several decades after the Major, passing away in 1972 after a short illness.  But this was not the last time he was seen.

After new stills were added to Glenrothes in 1980, Biawa was seen twice, just hanging around the stillroom, and always on rough nights when the Highland wind would howl.

The Master Distiller saw him calmly standing beside the new stills, his long white hair flowing, and knew immediately who it was.  A paranormal expert was consulted, who communicated with Biawa, who expressed his concerns that the new stills needed to be moved, or the spirit might be affected.

The stills were moved and Biawa has not been seen since.

Another rather amusing ghost story from Rothes is that of GlenDronach’s Spanish Spirit.

It is said that one dark night when the SpanichOloroso casks had just been delivered, the figure of a dark haired flamenco dancer escaped from one of the open barrels.

In full flamenco regalia, complete with a black mantilla veil covering her face, she is said to rustle through the still house and appear near the warehouse on pleasant evenings.

Not entirely a terrifying spirit, but an interesting one none the less!

Lets hope none of these spirits affected the real spirit we’re all interested in or they could find themselves searching for other distilleries to haunt!

Tags: DistilleryGhost Storiesold distilleriespumpkinswinter chills
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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