Abhainn Dearg Distillery
It has been almost 170 years since whisky was legally distilled in the Outer Hebrides and that was at the Shoeburn Distillery in Stornoway which closed down around 1840. The island had established a reputation of producing good whisky, two farms on Lewis whose illicit whisky held a reputation for quality were Coll and Gress, yet there was one in Harris and more throughout the isles. These distilleries existed a very long time ago, but in truth the art of distilling never left the island just carried on quietly as it had always done. Now the wait is over with the opening of the new distillery, Abhainn Dearg, (pronounced Aveen JarrÃ¦k) or Red River Distillery.
Although it might be a very new distillery they are following old traditions in an ancient landscape, one title they can claim is that they are the most westerly distillery in Scotland. Abhainn Dearg is trying to bring back the knowledge garnered by those ‘quiet’ distillers whose knowledge has been passed down through the generations and produce a whisky the island can be proud of.
At Abhainn Dearg the intent is to launch a single malt that will be on sale at the National MOD in 2011! This is well under way and casks have been set aside, but for those who prefer not to wait so long a ‘New Spirit’ will be available.
With the support of Crofter’s in Uig, it’s hoped that in the future they will produce enough barley for for their needs. Already ten acres have been sown and early signs are very promising. Barley was grown on the islands many years ago, along with hemp and flax.
Abhainn Dearg wants to be able to produce a Single Malt from land to bottle a goal they are passionate about. This will impact on the amount of whisky they can produce, but challenging the ‘big boys’ isn’t their intent. Their aim lies in quality and producing a superior Single Malt that will put the islands, the Outer Hebrides, firmly back on the Whisky map of Scotland.
The business is run on environmentally friendly lines, with a small hydroelectric scheme planned.
The distillery will produce 10,000 litres this year, and up to 25,000 litres by 2009-2010.
He has based his distillery on an illicit still working on the islands until the 1950s, using copper stills and American oak bourbon barrels.