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Abhainn Dearg

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ABHAINN  DEARG      40 %
500 ML Bottle
THE  SPIRIT  OF  LEWIS     
Distillation Date: 10/2/2010
Cask Number: 08 2010
1000 Numbered Bottles
Non Chill Filtered
Bottled by Hand
Oak Cask
Distilled by: Mark Tayburn - Founder
Abhainn Dearg Distillery, Carnish, Isle of Lewis
Outer Hebrides

ABHAINN  DEARG,
Carnish, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

Just 1000 x 50 ml bottles of "The Spirit of Lewis"have been released from Abhainn Dearg distillery on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, wih 500 being earmarked for the U K and 500 for mainland Europe.

Each is signed by founder Mark Tayburn. According to a spokesperson for Scotland's Westernmost distillery, which cam on stream in September 2008, "The Spirit of Lewis" is a traditional Outer Hebridean dram, a relatively young spirit, matured for a short period of time in a sherry cask. It is then reduced to 40.0 % A B V".

The result is a spirit with a grassy nose of tinned pears, with the emphasis on tin, sweetcereal, and a mildly herbal note. Reduced with water, there is a distinct impression of houseplant cuttings. Quite voluptuous in the mouth, with plump barley, and very drinkable.

The finish is short to medium in length, gently spicy and slightly metallic, with a final fruit and nut chocolate taste. Too young to be allowed out on its own for long, but this is an extremely promising "work in progress"and with a few more years behind it Abhainn Dearg could be a serious dram indeed.

The Shoeburn 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, that the great demand came from the town of Stornoway where ‘considerable quantities of spirit’ were bought.

Further afield, an offer in 1835 by Mr A. Robertson requested he could act as a London agent. Mr Robertson stated he had London and Indian connections and he could sell 1,000 to 2000 gallons of whisky. The outcome of this wasn’t known and Mackenzie was experiencing financial problems.  The distillery appears to have closed down in or around 1840 the exact reason isn’t known. In 1844 the island was sold on to Sir James Matheson, a complete abstainer and prohibitionist, who 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.
Although the Shoeburn was the last legal distillery on the island there is mention by the Elizabethan travel writer Fynes Moryson of three whiskies being produced as far back as the 1600’s, of one he wrote;

“A third sort is called usquebaugh baul, id est, usquebaugh, which at first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life.”
One hundred years on and another Mackenzie, this one the Rev. Colin Mackenzie of the parish of Stornoway writes in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland:

“The people of the town seldom have menservants engaged for the year; and it is a curious circumstance, that, time out of rememberance, their maidservants were in the habit of drinking, every morning, a wine glass full of whisky, which their mistress gave them; this barbarous custom became so well established by length of time, that if the practice of it should happen to be neglected or forgotten in a family, even once, discontent and idleness throughout the day, on the part of the maid or maids, would be the sure consequence.”
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 and it was a matter of personal preference as to whose was best.

The Isle of Lewis’ only legal distillery, in its capital Stornoway (and named after it), only ran for two years in the 1850s. After that, Lewisians had to import their Scotch from the mainland, or maybe source it from illicit local operations.

All of that changed in 2008 when Marko Tayburn built a distillery at Red River [Abhainn Dearg] on the western coast of the island making this officially the most remote whisky-making site in Scotland.

Hebrideans are resourceful by nature – they have to be – so when it came to the stills, Tayburn didn’t go, like everyone else, to Forsyth’s of Rothes but designed and built them himself, modelling them on an old illicit still he had discovered. In addition there is a pair of small mash tuns, wooden washbacks (all bought in) and a fermentation regime which lasts for four days.

The stills have elongated necks which look a little like witches’ hats and thin descending lyne arms which run into external worm tubs. A mix of unpeated and peated spirit is made
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