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The Abhainn Dearg Scotch Whisky Distillery
The water taken from Abhainn Dearg is as pure as it's naturally possible to get, there is no industry, no villages, not even a house along its banks, only the distillery at the mouth of the river.
2009 saw the release of the first new spirit, whilst the first Outer Hebridean single malt whisky was launched on the 14th of October 2011 at the Royal National MOD. This festival of Scottish Gaelic song, arts and culture was held in Stornoway and for the first time in history participants was able to enjoy a Single Malt whisky distilled and bottled on the Isle of Lewis. The MOD is popularly known as the whisky Olympics
The founder of Abhainn Dearg distillery, Mark Tayburn was determined to produce a whisky that was unique to Lewis and to be able to have it on sale to the visitors who attend the MOD in 2011.
It seemed to Mark Tayburn ridiculous that the Outer Hebrides couldn't supply its own whisky, which is as much a cultural heritage as the MOD and as a tradition is much older. They are well on the way to making that a reality, the casks have been filled and stored, the waiting begun.
The spirit the distillery produces today might be new to the market, However the philosophy and history of Hebridean distilling goes back hundreds of years.
At Abhainn Dearg Distillery that age old experience has been gathered together, for the knowledge of distilling fine whisky never left the Isle of Lewis shores, it’s just taken till now to re-claim this heritage and produce a true Outer Hebridean Whisky for the rest of the world to enjoy.
The history of legal whisky on the Isle of Lewis
The Shoeburn Distillery was the last legal distillery on the Isle of Lewis, built by Mr Stewart Mackenzie. The distillery cost £14,000 to build and production started around 1830, it was hoped to replace the many illicit stills that were situated all over the islands, and in doing so improve the health and morals of the islanders, so believed Mr Mackenzie!
The distillery was in full production around 1833 and records state that the spirit was in ‘great demand’, although it also mentions that little of the whisky left the island, the majority of the whisky going to the town of Stornoway where ‘considerable quantities of spirit’ were purchased.
In 1835 a Mr A. Robertson requested if he could act as a London agent for the distillery and stated he had London and Indian connections and that he could sell 1,000 to 2000 gallons of whisky. The outcome of this wasn’t known and at the time it was reported that Mackenzie was experiencing financial problems.
The Shoeburn distillery appears to have closed down in or around 1840 the exact reason isn’t known. However in 1844 the island was sold to Sir James Matheson, a complete abstainer and prohibitionist, who promptly demolished the buildings and replaced them with Lews Castle.
One character associated with the distillery was the last distiller in charge, a Mr Thomas Macnee, who was renowned for his generous measures. He became so well known that his name lives on in Gaelic ‘Tomhas mhÓr Mhic Mith’ he offered the many people who came to the distillery a good measure for cash including foreign sailors.
However distilling didn't stop, let's just say it went back to its roots.
Prior to the Shoeburn distillery two other producers of illegal whisky were well known and had the support of the local populace, these were located in Coll and Gress. These two illicit stills had the reputation of producing quality whisky .
Old traditions die hard in the outer islands and that's what you will find at Abhainn Dearg. - Whisky distilled in the traditional manor using copper and wood and home grown organic barley.
Other ingredients are passion and commitment, old fashioned values of producing the finest whisky they can, not just for financial gain, but for the love of distilling and taking a pride in what they do, for those who came before and the children who will hopefully carry it on for future generations.
Abhainn Dearg Distillery Limited Output
The Abhainn Dearg distillery aims is produce a quality Single Malt for those who take the trouble to visit Lewis, support them via the internet and, like the Shoeburn Distillery before them, supply local area.
Because of this the distillery can't offer casks or cases at this time, However if you sign up to their newsletter they will keep you updated on what they are doing and when they will release their whiskies.
Abhainn Dearg Distillery Bottlings
Abhainn Dearg New Make Spirit
Abhainn Dearg Malt Whisky released for the October 2011 Royal National MOD.
Abhainn Dearg Single Malt Special Edition
Limited Edition Single Malt, the first single malt from the Outer Hebrides and Abhainn Dearg Distillery. There are only 2011, 500ml bottles available.
This is a single cask bottling, no added colour, non chill filtered and bottled (by hand) at 46%. All bottles are numbered and signed by Mark Tayburn, distillery founder and distiller and come packaged in a specially designed teak box
Isle of Lewis
No visitor centre
However you can arrange a visit by contacting the distillery
Abhainn Dearg (pronounced Aveen Jarræk) distillery is the most Westerly of the Scottish distilleries and can be found in Uig, on the west coast of the Hebridean Isle of Lewis.
The Abhainn Dearg, or Red River Distillery is a new distillery in a very ancient landscape.
The Abhainn Dearg Scotch Whisky Distillery Equipment
Mash tun: capacity-500kg.
2 Wash Backs: capacity- 7500L each
wash still: No.1 capacity- 2112L
spirit still: No.1 capacity- 2057L
Water Source: Abhainn Dearg
Cask Type: ex Bourbon American Oak