Helmsdale Distillery Company was established and first licensed to Alexander and Dougal Simpson in 1825, who were distillers, merchants and fish curers at Helmsdale. In 1828 there were 22,991 gallons of malt whisky distilled, and in 1831 the company license was amended to Alexander Simpson and Co., when Dougal resigned as partner, leaving Alexander to operate the distillery until 1837, when it seems to have lain unused for a short period.
The site was eventually licensed to James Christie and Co., which was bankrupted in 1840 when the distillery closed and was later dismantled. Interestingly, John Christie, a partner and presumably related to James, was a banker at Golspie and one of the legal witnesses present in 1831 when the Simpson partnership split up. The distillery land was owned by the Duke of Sutherland, and the lease of the distillery ground was part of the Sutherland Estate’s industrial improvements in the area to discourage the illicit whisky trade.
It is documented in the Statistical Account of the same year that the distillery had a brewery attached to it. The distillery buildings were converted into cottages for fishermen and were used until the early 20th century when they were demolished.
Whisky is made from fermented grain mash and it gets its distinctive flavour from the water source and is aged in wooden casks. A hydrometer, a glass tube, weighed on one end and with graduated markings on it, is used to test the alcohol content in a sample. It works like a fishing float, as alcohol is thinner than water, the higher the alcohol content the deeper the float sink. The drip tray on display was used to hold the samples of whisky that were being tested and would catch any overflow or drips.