Enjoy a Dram of Single Malt at Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton

by | Jul 28, 2017 | Canada, Nova Scotia | 5 comments

Our next stop on our Cape Breton Road Trip is Glenora Distillery

Glenora Distillery is North America’s first single malt whisky distillery. It opened in 1990. It is located on the east coast of Cape Breton Island in a picturesque valley. A beautiful brook that runs through the property. This supplies the water for the whisky.


Getting there:

Our original plan was to leave Keltic Lodge and continue driving around the Cabot Trail in a counter clockwise direction. Lucky for us, someone warned us about the summer road construction on the Cabot Trail. There are 12 construction zones, each with unpredictable delays. We abandoned our plan to drive around the Cabot Trail. Instead, we retraced our route and avoided all construction by using the Englishtown ferry. When we reached Whycocamagh, we followed route 252 to Glenora Distillery. We missed some scenic vistas but we saved ourselves countless hours of traffic frustration.


I have a confession:

I do not like scotch. It tastes like medicine to me. I wanted to visit Glenora Distillery because it is the site of an epic legal battle.

Glenora Distillery is a perfect stop even if you don’t like whisky

Glenora Distillery is also a high-end inn and restaurant

We arrived at Glenora at 4 in the afternoon, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. We didn’t take the guided tour of the distillery ($7.00) because we had Buddy with us. Instead we wandered around the grounds and had a lovely, relaxing stop on our road trip.

Glenora is much bigger and much nicer than I had imagined. On our next road trip, we will plan to stay for the night. We will have dinner in the restaurant, outside if it is warm. There is a Ceilidh every evening in the pub. A Ceilidh is a showcase of Celtic music and songs, accompanied by a fiddle and piano.


A Ceilidh is the best kitchen party ever

This is a display of high-end whiskies for sale at Glenora

The most expensive whisky is $750 plus 15% sales tax.

The whiskies at Glenora look like scotch and taste like scotch. But they cannot be called scotch. Only whisky made in Scotland can be called scotch. Glenora did not wage war with Scotland by labelling their whisky as scotch. However, Glenora was willing to go to war over the word glen on their labels.

Glenora labelled one of its finest whiskies Glen Breton Rare. Glenora Distillery is located in Glenville in Cape Breton. The name Glen Breton pays homage to Glenora’s location in Glenville in Cape Breton. Glenora applied for trademark registration of the name Glen Breton. This raised the ire of the Scotch Whisky Association.

The Scotch Whisky Association is a powerful association that represents 57 Scotch Whisky companies in Scotland. The mandate of the Scotch Whisky Association is to “stop any mis-representation that states or suggests a whisky is Scotch Whisky, or comes from Scotland, when that isn’t the case.”

Before Glenora sold a single bottle of Glen Breton Rare, it found itself at war with the Scotch Whisky Association.


Battle of the Glen

How would you define ‘glen’?

(a) a valley

(b) a valley in Scotland

Would you spend 9 years and a small fortune in lawyers’ fees to debate the answer to this multiple-choice question? Glenora Distillery did in its epic battle with the Scotch Whisky Association.

The Scotch Whisky Association declared war against Glenora by objecting to the registration of Glen Breton as a trade-mark. The case was widely followed by the media in Canada and Scotland. Here is an excerpt from a Globe and Mail article:

For nine years, the Edinburgh-based Scotch Whisky Association has fought to protect the Scottish integrity of the “Glen” name, which its members say implies a connection to household names in Scotch, such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.


From Parma ham to parmesan cheese, food makers around the world are battling to claim the proprietary rights to brand identities linked to a product’s place of origin.


“We have no objection to the production of single malt whisky in Canada,” said the association’s spokesman David Williamson. “What is of concern, though, is any product that tries to take unfair advantage of Scotch whisky’s international reputation by adopting a Scottish-sounding name.”

The Scotch Whisky Association went after Glenora to protect its billion dollar business in Scotch exports. Here is an excerpt from the most recent report released by the Scotch Whisky Association on the value of scotch exports:

“Scotch exports increased last year by 4% to more than £4 billion, with the value of Single Malts exceeding £1billion for the first time.

Last year, Scotch remained the biggest net contributor to the UK’s balance of trade in goods. Scotch Whisky accounts for over a fifth of the UK’s total food and drink exports.”

The fight over the word glen is worth billions.

Glenora won the first round in the legal battle when the Canadian Trade-marks Board rejected the arguments of the Scotch Whisky Association, thereby allowing Glen Breton to be registered as a trademark.

The Scotch Whisky Association appealed.

The Scotch Whisky Association won the second round when it successfully appealed the decision to the Federal Court of Canada, thereby dis-allowing Glen to appear on the label.

Glenora appealed.

Glenora won this round when the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s ruling, thereby allowing Glen on the label.

The Scotch Whisky Association wanted the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case. The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the application by the Scotch Whisky Association. This had the effect of upholding the decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, thereby allowing Glen on the label.

Glenora won the battle!

This was a huge win for Glenora.

The Canadian answer to the multiple-choice question is (a). A glen is a valley.


To celebrate its victory, Glenora released a limited edition whisky called “Battle of the Glen.”


Do you wish you had gone to law school and spent nine years of your life on this multiple-choice question?

This is the whisky menu

This is the dining room at Glenora, overlooking the outdoor dining tables

This is the entrée menu for dinner

Buddy and I are relaxing in the sun at Glenora

Buddy decided to take a dip in MacLellan’s Brook

There is something magical and mystical about MacLellan’s Brook

This is a picture of my sister sitting by MacLellan’s Brook.

MacLellan’s Brook runs through the Glenora property. It brings pure, fresh water from the highlands of Cape Breton to the distillery for the whisky.

Nova Scotia is filled with freshwater streams but I have never seen one as lovely as MacLellan’s Brook.


Even though I don’t like whisky, Glenora was a perfect stop on our road trip.


Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray