Happy birthday to Arran

The Arran distillery on the Isle of Arran is celebrating its 25th birthday this month. I will be featuring whisky from this distillery in my open tasting A taste of the old and the new in August.

Back in the early 1800s, there were many small stills to be found across the island. Not all of them were legal of course! However, after the last still closed, the island was left without a distillery for many years.

In 1994, a new distillery was built, at Lochranza. a small village at the north end of the island. There is an interesting story about the construction works. Building had to be halted when a pair of golden eagles decided to nest in the hills above the distillery. Eagles are a protected species in Scotland and therefore they could not be disturbed.

On the 29th June 1995, the first spirit flowed  at the distillery. After three years maturation, the first cask of Arran Single Malt was opened, which marked the first legal dram on Arran for over 160 years.

In 2003, the distillery laid aside a special sherry hogshead cask for the drinks chain, Oddbins. Bottled in 2017, this 14 year old produced only 286 bottles from the cask. I am pleased to say I have one of those bottles and will be sharing a dram with my guests at the tasting in August.

The Arran Distillery was named Scottish Distillery of the Year in 2007 and three years later their official 14 year old was released. An 18 year old was released in 2016, which saw the distillery enter the arena of aged whisky.

The Isle of Arran has been called ‘little Scotland’ because there is a bit of everything on the island. Dramatic mountains, a dynamic coastline, cultural events and festivals and a wealth of local produce make the island a fantastic place to holiday.

And of course, there is the award-winning visitor centre at the distillery.

Why not join me in August for A taste of the old and the new.

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A very special dam

Lochnagar distillery, near to the River Dee in Aberdeenshire, is home to a wonderful 12 year old single malt whisky.

The single malt was a favourite of Queen Victoria and her Prince Consort Albert. The queen build a holiday home on the Balmoral estate in the 19th century and stayed there every year, a tradition that remains today with the Royal family. Every summer, the Queen and her family holiday at Balmoral, to escape from the pressures of life in London.

Queen Victoria granted the Lochnagar Distillery a Royal Warrant in 1848. Lochnagar is  one of three Scottish distilleries to be named ‘Royal’.

The origins of the distillery go back to 1826 when an illicit distiller set up a distillery north of the River Dee. However, this was brunt down by smugglers. John Begg built the new Lochnagar in 1845.

The water for the distilling process comes from a dam, located about a ten-minute walk from the distillery. Clear and fresh waters rushing off the mountains fill the dam. The distillery offers a tour called ‘A dram at the dam’, whereby they take visitors up to the dam to enjoy a wee glass of the single malt. On a nice day it is quite a unique experience. Actually, even if the weather is poor, getting the warm internal glow from a glass of whisky on the hill is excellent.

Most of the produce from Lochnagar is used in blends such as Johnnie Walker Gold and Black labels.

The distillery takes its name from the mountain, Lochnagar, or Beinn Chiochan. At at height of over 3,000 feet, the mountain is one of the most popular and spectacular of the Cairngorms range. On a clear day from the top, the Lochnagar distillery and the Balmoral Estate can be seen.

The poet, Lord Byron, wrote a very famous poem about the mountain, called Dark Lochnagar.

‘Away, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses! I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr.’

I often feature their 12 year old single malt in my tastings because the whisky is quite unique. It makes a really nice summer dram, with its creamy nose and light smoke and gingerbread taste.

Lochangar mountain

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