Single malt Scotch Whisky Finished in Tuscan Red Wine Casks.
Distilled in The Highlands for R & B Distillers in anticipation of our future production on Raasay.
First Release Numbered Bottles 46 %
ISLE OF RAASAY
Raasay While We Wait Single Malt Scotch Whisky 46 % abv, natural colour, non – chill
While waiting for Raasay Distillery to rise beneath Dun Caan, we’ ve crafted a single
malt demonstrating our whisky making skills to offer a tantalising taster of what’s
We achived this blending two expressions from one distillery, one peated, one unpeated.
The whisky then finished in French oak, Tuscan wine casks from three vineyards that
produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
The result= Single malt whisky of uncommon provenance.
Aptly enough, this special edition, light peated whisky is christened While We Wait.
ISLE OF RAASAY
Although the distillery is still under construction, the style of spirit to be produced
at Isle of Raasay has long been defined by founder Alasdair Day. A long fermentation
and plenty of copper contact, including a cooling jacket on the wash still lyne arm
and an inclined lyne arm on the spirit still, will result in a clean, fruity - a nod t with
an element of smoke imparted by the lioghtly peated malt.
R & B Distillers intends to make full use of maturation in first – fill American oak,
European oak and Tuscan red wine casks – a nod to the origins of Raasay’s stills.
Isle of Raasay’s signature whisky may be a fruity, sweet and lightly peated malt –
as seen in its pre – emtive release, Raasay While We Wait – but the distillery’s
configuration has been created to – allow for experimentation with fermentation
Therefore we can expect to see a variety of styles from this small island distillery.
Isle of Raasay history
R & B Distillers co – founder Alasdair Day had intended to build his first distillery
in the Scottish Borders, near to where his great grandfather blended whisky in a
Day and business partner, internet entrepreneur Bill Dobbie, were in need of a
plant to supply malt whisky for their Tweeddale blend. However it was a re –
commendation from a friend that led the duo to consider the Hebridean Island
of Rasaay for their first project.
The island not only represented a prime oppotunity in terms of location, but
never before had Raasay been home to a legal whisky distillery.
The company secured the vacant Borodale House in 2015, a Victorian building
most recently used as a hotel, and is currently in the process of renovating
the site into a distillery and visitor centre with accommodation for members
of its Tusairean whisky club.
R & B Distillers expects Isle of Raasay distillery to be up and running by summer
In anticipation of the distillery’s first whisky, R & B created Raasay While We
Wait in 2015, a peated Highland single malt that’s reflective of the spirit Raasay
distillery will soon produce.
2014 R & B Distillers founded by Alasdair Day and Bill Dobbie.
2016 February Planning perm received to build Isle of Raasay distillery.
Raasay & Borders Distillers
The Borders has not seen a whisky distillery since 1837, and our Isle of Raasay
Distillery will be the first ever legal one on the island of just 120 residents.
Our roots in both the Scottish Borders and the Hebrides are physically em –
bodied by our Cofounder, Alasdair Day. Alasdair’s great – grand – father,
Allan Macdonald, hailed from the Hebrides. His other great – grandfather,
Richard Day was a whisky blender in the Border town of Coldstream with
a heritage back to 1820.
Building distilleries takes time though, so we are satisfying our impatience
by working with a Highland distillery to very deliberately craft the styles of
whisky representative of what’s to come.
The Cellar Book
In the pages of the cellar book, an accounts ledger in which can be found
buying probably beer – possibly whisky – Richard Day later recorded all
his acquired wisdom, decades of whisky learning and lore.
Over time the volume with all its blended whisky recipes passed into the
capable hands of R & B’s Alasdair Day and after a 70 year gap The
Tweeddale Blend was recreated.
As whisky adventurers and innovators, at R & B we rarely do anything
by the book, Unless, of course, it’s Richard Day’s cellar book.
ALASDAIR DAY, R&B DISTILLERS
The co-founder of R&B Distillers, Alasdair Day can trace his whisky heritage back to his great-grandfather’s grocery and blending business in 1895. He talks about getting Raasay distillery off the ground, and his ambitions to repeat the feat in the Borders.
Alasdair Day R&B Distillers
In the blood: Alasdair Day’s family can trace its whisky involvement back to 1895
‘Not a lot of people know this, but I was actually born in England – in Norwich in fact – where my father was working as a dentist. However, I always maintain that I was born on a tartan blanket and my feet never touched the ground, and I came back to Scotland when I was three months old.
‘I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Botany from Glasgow University and then worked in the food industry, initially with fresh produce and then with dairy, for 25 years.
‘I first got involved with whisky because my great-grandfather, Richard Day, owned a licensed grocery shop, brewery and whisky blending business in Coldstream, in the Scottish Borders.
‘The original business was established in 1820 and my great-grandfather joined it in 1895. I inherited the family cellar book from my father, and as well as all the sales records for 1820 and 1821, at the back of the book there is a record of all the blends produced by the company from 1899 to 1916.
‘In 2009 I decided to recreate one of the blends from the book, and the following year I released my first batch of The Tweeddale.
‘To date there have been five batches of The Tweeddale, including a Lowland Tweeddale single cask single malt, a Lowland Tweeddale single grain, and the Last Centennial Tweeddale blended malt.
‘The latest releases have been a 27-year-old Tweeddale single grain (from Cambus distillery, which was used in many of the blends in my great-grandfather's book), and this month we are releasing The Tweeddale – The Evolution, a 28-year-old blended Scotch whisky.
‘I got into whisky full-time in June 2013. Our first export order for the Tweeddale Blend came in during 2012, and I realised I had to choose between my full-time job or whisky.
Bill Dobbie Alasdair Day
Double act: Alasdair Day with R&B co-founder and sole investor Bill Dobbie (Photo: George Rankine)
‘By then, it had become extremely difficult to buy aged stock (especially 12- to 16-year-old), so to be able to expand there were two options: either raise investment to buy new fillings, or raise investment to build a distillery to create our own spirit. I chose the latter.
‘I looked at a site at Walkerburn, between Galashiels and Peebles in the Borders, but ultimately nothing came of that. I looked at various other sites in the area, but it was very difficult to find somewhere suitable.
‘By that time, I’d met Bill Dobbie, with whom I formed R&B [Raasay & Borders] Distillers. Bill was my co-founder and sole investor, and we established the company in 2014.
‘My other paternal great-grandfather came from Portvoller, a small village on the north tip of the Eye Peninsula on the Isle of Lewis, and I have always been fascinated by the two opposite corners of Scotland – the Borders and the Hebrides – and the different styles of whisky they might produce.
‘Bill's best friend from school was Iain Hector Ross, whose wife’s family comes from the Isle of Raasay, and when we were talking about the Hebrides Iain mentioned that the former hotel Borodale House on Raasay was for sale.
‘When I visited with Bill in May 2014 I was struck by the view (probably the best from any distillery in Scotland), the fact that there had been illicit distilling on the island in the past, and the geology that influences the water supply.
‘There was previously a Celtic well on the site and we now draw our water from the same source. Raasay and Borodale House looked like a great place to make Scotch whisky. Building on an island off an island certainly brings its challenges, as everything has been just that wee bit harder to do.
‘We filled our first cask on 14 September 2017 and went into full production of one mash (one tonne a day), five days a week on 27 September, and we are making a lightly peated, fruity single malt. We hope to release the first bottling in 2020.
Varied tastes: Day’s favourite whiskies range from Lagavulin to Miltonduff
‘In the meantime, we have Raasay While We Wait – in the same style as the whisky we are producing on Raasay. We are now on our third release, and we have worked with a Highland distillery to develop the style of lightly peated single malt, using both their heavily peated and unpeated expressions, which we have finished in Tuscan red wine casks.
‘The first release had an eight-week finish and the second release an 18-month finish in red wine cask. The finish of the third release is halfway between the two, and our aim is to balance the fruit from the red wine with the smoke from the peat.
‘Meanwhile, our Borders distillery is very much an aspiration, as we have still a lot to do first on Raasay. We held an online vote to find out where most people would like to see the distillery located and the town of Peebles, on the Tweed, was the winner. Great for someone who owns a blend called Tweeddale!
‘However, we’re looking for any site in the Borders that could be bought and developed in a nice, straightforward way, and realistically we’re looking at a five to 10-year timescale for the project, and probably closer to 10.
‘When it comes to my own favourite whiskies, it’s very much about mood, and where I am and who I’m with. I like Lagavullin and Caol Ila, Clynelish and especially some Speysides. I enjoy Mortlach and Miltonduff, but maybe that’s because I’ve bought some really good casks of them to use in the Tweeddale Blend.
‘I live in Livingston, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and in my spare time I coach at Livingston Rugby Club, where my son plays, though with the Raasay distillery project, and travelling between home and the island so much, I’ve not had a lot of spare time recently!’
SKYE & RAASAY
We are currently seeing a renaissance in Scotch whisky, with new distilleries re-establishing whisky making in places where it had been forgotten or under-represented. One such area is Skye and Raasay. Dave Broom goes to investigate its newest arrivals.
Sense of space: The journey to Skye might be long, but the panoramic views are rewarding
Don’t think you can just nip over to Skye. It’s a five-hour drive to the bridge from Glasgow (on a good day, which in my experience it rarely is). Even the journey from Inverness takes two hours by road or train (if you opt for the latter, check bus times when you get to Skye). In other words, relax. Enjoy the drive.
Neil Mathieson, chief executive of Mossburn Distillers, and I took the Inverness option, taking the spectacular high road which at the summit, high over Loch Carron, the Cuillin emerges on the horizon. On a good day that is. The sole welcome we had on the road was a hoodie crow coughing in the void of a rain-soaked glen.
For most of my whisky life, a journey to Skye meant Talisker (itself an hour or so from the bridge) and a reminder of the whisky which started me off on this career. Now, however, we turned left just before Broadford and headed 16 miles down the Sleat [pron: Slate] Peninsula to Skye’s newest distillery, Torabhaig.
With its limewashed walls, waterwheel and pagoda roof it looks as if it has been here on the shore, looking over to Knoydart, for a hundred years. In fact, this 200-year-old farm steading has only just been converted. ‘A challenging build,’ as Mathieson put it, necessitating treading a tricky path between the demands of Historic Scotland, the architectural vision, and the need to have a functional plant within the walls of a listed (and listing) building.
The distillery’s workings occupy the longest wall of the steading’s open rectangle. Inside, you slalom your way past the mashtun and eight wooden washbacks, already filled with wash. Torabhaig is, however, still finding its feet. There’s a welcome fluidity to the thinking. After all, if you can’t ask the question, ‘what is Torabhaig?’ at the start of its life, then when can you?
That means using the same variety of peated and unpeated barley from three different maltings, different peating levels, and yeast strains, but always clear wort, long ferments and the same cask types. ‘There’s a requirement to be experimental,’ Neil says. ‘This isn’t about sticking to a formula. Whisky is a living thing.’ In that case, Torabhaig is very much alive.
We decant to the wood-panelled bar of the nearby Eilean Iarmain hotel, which is already rammed with people – locals propping up the bar, the usual clusters of happily bemused tourists, and a tidal wave of students festooned with instruments. They’ve come from Sabhail Mòr Ostaig (SMO), the Gaelic college established in 1973 by Sir Iain Noble.
For him, language was at the heart of regeneration. He owned the 23,000-acre estate, the hotel, and as well as SMO, started Praban na Linne, the ‘Gaelic whisky’ company. What is now Torabhaig was another of his dreams – he sold the site to Marussia in 2013.
We’ve been joined by hotel manager Garry Wallace. ‘Have you seen the still?’ he asks. I begin to enthuse about Torabhaig. ‘Not that one. Ours.’ We head round the back of the building. In a narrow room sits a steampunk bathysphere with a botanical basket welded into its lyne arm. Skye’s first gin still, and the first I’ve seen with a worm tub.
Back in the bar the music is roaring, as we dine on local seafood and venison, drink Té Bheag and talk about how the community is coming together, of scholarships and plans for Torabhaig to be Skye-run, hotels in full occupancy from April to October, Garry’s plans for live streaming theatre and opera into a new cinema on the property. The Hebrides have been marginalised culturally, politically and linguistically. That now seems to be changing.
The morning after, mildly bleary, we head north to Sconser. Normally, I’d have gone further, up to the legendary Sligachan Hotel and onwards to Talisker. That distillery, it strikes me now, wasn’t just a focal point for whisky, but Skye itself. It showed what was possible in this location and around it a new Skye began to form. It remains the beacon of quality.
The Skye I grew up loving was a place for walkers, climbers and the seekers for the wild. You stayed in draughty hotels and bunkhouses, holidayed in B&Bs. Now, you can also dine in Michelin-starred hotels and stay in top-end hotels (draughts have been excluded) as well as having the freshest possible seafood at Lochbay in Waternish, or the Oyster Shed above Talisker. Pints – locally brewed – and drams can be quaffed in bars like Carbost’s Old Inn, Portree’s Isles Inn and Bosville Hotel, Waternish’s Stein Inn, or Seamus’ Bar at the Slig with its 400 whiskies.
Skye gives you a sense of space. It also gives perspective, a glimpse of your insignificance and the immensity of time. People love it for its emptiness, but that’s precious little comfort if you live there. As author Robert Macfarlane wrote, ‘Skye isn’t empty, it is emptied’. These are Clearance lands, places where people were evicted to make way for sheep and either sent off the island or in Talisker’s case, put to work in the distillery.
All of that is distilled on Raasay. The ferry which links it with Sconser is called ‘Hallaig’, after one of the island’s cleared villages, and the subject of Sorley Maclean’s poem, which starts:
‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig’. It is a poem about loss and landscape, of clearances and the end of community, all of which was happening until recently.
My first memory of hearing about Raasay was in the ‘70s when the residents were in dispute with then owner Dr Green (aka ‘Dr No’) over his refusal to allow any investment on the island.
This 14-mile long sliver of sandstone and gneiss, the home of the Big Men (there’s various interpretations as to what facet of their size this refers to) is an encapsulation of the Hebridean experience. It’s a place of the shape-shifting each-uisge [water horse] which lurks in the depths of Loch na Mna, of Pictish stones, and settlements whose children had to be tethered for fear they’d fall over the cliffs.
Its history has also been a litany of disinterest and self-interest. One landlord (George Rainy, who cleared Hallaig) banned marriage and built a wall to separate the fertile south as a playground for himself, leaving the remaining people to live on the poorer northern ground.
Raasay’s story has been one of leavings and emptying. But dig a little and it also becomes one of resilience. Take Calum MacLeod, who hand-built a two-mile road between Brochel and his home at Arnish because the authorities refused to. ‘Calum’s Road’ became Raasay's symbol of what was possible. The island slowly changed. A community hall, a new ferry terminal, the rebuilding of Raasay House, the retention of shooting rights by the community. Small victories, an incremental building of hope showing that the emptied could be filled once again.
Isle of Raasay distillery’s newest fillings are new make, long fermented (up to 110 hours), heavily peated and unpeated, to be aged separately in different woods and then blended. There’s even a nod to Talisker in the water jacket on the wash still’s lyne arm and purifier pipe.
‘We had the view, we had the water, so we thought, why not barley?’ says Alasdair Day, co-founder of Raasay owner R&B Distillers. So Bere has been planted, ‘as soon as it started to grow you could see it was meant to be here,’ as well as trials with Swedish (Kannas) and Icelandic (Iskria) varieties. There’re plans for using local peat as well.
When Boswell and Johnson came a-visiting in 1773, the latter reported: ‘We found nothing but civility, elegance, and plenty. After the usual refreshments, and the usual conversation, the evening came upon us. The carpet was then rolled off the floor; the musician was called, and the whole company was invited to dance, nor did ever fairies trip with greater alacrity.’
I’m unsure whether the dancing on the distillery’s opening night was fairy like, it was more like Scottish martial arts with musical accompaniment: birling and spinning, shouts and laughter; drams and conversation.
We talk into the wee hours about farming – ‘get the sheep off and plant the barley’, of the revived walled garden, how the old Wee Frees would be spinning in their graves at the idea of whisky being made (the ferry only started running on a Sunday in 2004) and the need for a pub; and how the population had stabilised and there are children in the school.
The sense of a new whisky community spreads across both islands. There are plans for Skye’s distilleries linking with Raasay’s and Harris’ to create a new whisky route, and proposals that the distilleries share engineering logistics.
It was easy to slip into the romantic view that this area should only have one distillery, but that is to conform to an urban view. People cannot live on beauty. Distilleries bring people who spend money and create the need for a greater infrastructure and hospitality, which in turn keeps people on the island. Whisky is a seed which helps create a community.
‘If you revive your language,’ Sir Iain Noble once said, ‘you have a greater chance of reviving your community.’ I’d add, a distillery helps that process. Talisker has shown that. The others will reinforce it.
In MacLean’s Hallaig, the poet stops time:
‘a vehement bullet will come from the gun of Love
and will strike the deer that goes dizzily,
sniffing at the grass-grown ruined homes’
Time is arrested so as to preserve the memory, but its freezing also gives hope of a regeneration, of new shoots emerging, saplings in the woods, barley in the fields, ideas in the minds.
People no longer leave here. They arrive.
HOW TO GET THERE
The nearest airports are Glasgow (international) and Inverness (local), both of which offer car hire. Alternatively, City Link offers coaches from both locations to Skye. The three ferry ports on Skye – Armadale, Sconser and Uig, are serviced by Calmac, which run to Mallaig on the mainland, Raasay, Lochmaddy on North Uist or Tarbert on Harris. If you prefer the scenic route and are in no rush, opt for the Glenelg ferry which takes in spectacular views. Skye is also connected to the mainland via road bridge, between the villages of Kyle of Lochalsh (mainland) and Kyleakin (Skye). Local buses operate on the island but are not always frequent. You can find the route here.