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Abhainn a’Ghlinne Dhuibh, Newmarket, Isle of Lewis. Via Islandboy

 

Production has started at a distillery near Uig on the Atlantic coast of Lewis, 164 years since the last legal distillery in the Western Isles closed.

Island businessman Mark Tayburn has set up Abhainn Dearg distillery (Red River in Gaelic) on the site of a former salmon hatchery. Casking has begun and the first bottles of single malt will be ready by 2011, when the Royal National Mod returns to the islands.

The business is run on environmentally friendly lines, with a small hydroelectric scheme planned.

Mr Tayburn, who also runs a recycling business in Lewis, said 10,000 litres would be produced this year, and up to 25,000 litres by 2009-10.

He has based his distillery on an illicit still working on the islands until the 1950s, using copper stills and American oak bourbon barrels.

Meanwhile, a second distillery may open in the islands shortly. Uisge Beatha nan Eilean Ltd (the Island Whisky Company) plans to produce 25,000 litres a year in Barra, where the film Whisky Galore was made.

With the dark nights drawing in, it’s almost time to buy the first bottle of the season! Last year it was Ardbeg’s Ten Year Old, this year who knows….

PS Hopefully the Abhainn Dearg folks will be doing cask purchases when they get going. If so I’ll be game for going in for one (and reaping the rewards ten years hence) with a few other like minded folk if anyone else cared to chip in?

Slàinte!