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George and John Rate founded the distillery in 1837 (after having originally founded another distillery called Milton nearby in 1825) but went bankrupt in 1853 and the site was turned into a saw mill. Rebuilding the distillery between 1881-1890 as blended whisky sales started soaring (and Glenkinchie has not been seen much as a single malt since then as it has been largely part of Johnnie Walker blends), the distillery eventually was combined with other Lowland distilleries like Rosebank, St Magdalene etc. to form Scottish Malt Distillers before becoming a part of Diageo.

Today, Glenkinchie is one of the very few surviving distilleries in Lowland and represents the region within Diageo's Class Malts selection (launched in 1989).