Andy Gemmell’s Drinks Cabinet
Ncn’ean distillery Drimnin, by Lochaline, Morvern
History: The Drimnin Estate overlooks Tobermory and The Sound of Mull between the Inner Hebridean island of Mull and mainland Scotland. This truly stunning location is owned by Derek and Louise Lewis, who along with daughter Annabel Thomas, a whisky enthusiast, had a dream of building a distillery on their estate back in 2010. Over the next four years they set up their company and received funding to turn their dream into a reality. In 2014 former Carlsberg UK boss Benet Slay joined them as chairman and the creation of the distillery within one of their former farm buildings started in April 2016. Spirit finally started to flow through its stills in April of 2017. The whisky: Working with the late great Dr Jim Swan when designing the configuration of the distilling equipment, they are striving to be experimental with the whisky they produce.
Longer mashing process, slower fermentation and unusual lampshaped stills mean they are going to be pushing the boundaries of whisky, giving the category new and exciting brands.
The brands: Unusually there is no sign of a gin from this distillery, which is common practice among new distilleries until their whisky is ready. They have, however, given 60 people the opportunity to purchase their own barrel from the distillery. Prices start at £3,000 and will give you around
300 bottles when it is ready.
Geek alert: This is not one of Scotland’s biggest distilleries by a long way. If you compare it to Glenfiddich or Macallan who produce well over 16 million litres of pure alcohol between them every year, here they aim to get around 100,000 litres from their stills. They have plans to release their first whisky in 2020, which may seem early, but I am sure they have invested in the best casks they could get their hands on, in order to make it ready for this date.
This might not be the easiest distillery to visit but if you are in any way interested in whisky or just visiting one of the most stunning parts of Scotland then it’s worth the effort. The distillery is open during the week with tours in the morning and afternoon. You need to phone ahead here to book a tour. If you find yourself in Tobermory over summer then there is a water taxi which can take you here once a week. The approach to whisky here is refreshing. You can even get a cocktail after your tour if you are not into neat whisky.
Interesting fact: The name Ncn’ean (an abbreviation of Neachneohain) comes from Scots Gaelic folklore. Ncn’ean was a witch queen, a fierce hunter and protector of nature, who was also known as the “Queen of the Spirits”, which fits in perfectly to this establishment’s story and ethos of claiming to be Scotland’s first organic distillery. The distillery has been set up to use only green electricity that is generated on the estate from a hydro-river scheme, and also re-uses waste heat through the warehouse. The by-products of the distillation process will also be used as feed and fertiliser for the estate.