Hugh Smith’s let­ter from Is­lay

The Oban Times - - News -

Kil­dal­ton Cas­tle

STAND­ING sur­rounded by wood­land north- east of Port Ellen is the ru­ined Vic­to­rian coun­try house known as Kil­dal­ton Cas­tle.

Bur­netIt was in de­signed1867 and by built ar­chi­tect­three years John later for lo­cal landowner, dis­tiller and politi­cian John Ram­say, who had taken out a lease on the run­down Port Ellen dis­tillery.

Ram­say re­versed the fortunes of the ail­ing dis­tillery, im­proved the is­land port’s dock­ing fa­cil­i­ties and was also a pi­o­neer of whisky ex­ports to the Amer­i­cas.

His Scots ba­ro­nial-style home stood then in a 54,000-acre moor­land es­tate and con­sists of two-storey ac­com­mo­da­tion wings dom­i­nated by a four-storey keep con­nected to a five-storey tower.

Ram­say also served as a JP, was a deputy lieu­tenant for Ar­gyll, and was elected as MP for Stir­ling Burghs in 1868 and as the mem­ber for Falkirk Burghs in 1878.

He died in 1892 and the es­tate and dis­tillery passed to his widow and son who sold the dis­tillery to the Dis­tillers Com­pany in 1920.

Two years later, the Kil­dal­ton es­tate was sold to John Tal­bot Clifton, a wealthy landowner from Lytham in Lan­cashire and whose main in­ter­ests were shoot­ing and world travel.

Some of the an­i­mal species he came across dur­ing his ex­ten­sive trav­els were new to science and, as a re­sult, he gave his name to a type of Siberian sheep and a Cana­dian mar­mot.

Clifton was mar­ried to the English writer Vi­o­let Beau­clerk, whose bi­og­ra­phy of her hus­band The Book

of Tal­bot won her the James Tait Black Me­mo­rial prize for lit­er­a­ture in 1933.

Tal­bot Clifton’s last ven­ture was an ex­pe­di­tion to Tim­buktu in which he was ac­com­pa­nied by his wife. He took ill en route and the cou­ple headed for Santa Cruz in Tener­ife where he died of lung can­cer in 1928. Vi­o­let had his body em­balmed and brought back to Is­lay, where he was buried on Cnoc Rhaonas­til, which over­looks his is­land home and cas­tle. She even­tu­ally left Is­lay and took up res­i­dence in Lytham Hall where she died in 1961. is­land,With Kil­dal­ton­her de­par­ture Cas­tle’s from years theof steady de­cline and ne­glect be­gan. In the in­ter­ven­ing years, por­tions of a once large es­tate have been sold off. There is lit­tle doubt that Tal­bot Clifton’s life­style made heavy in­roads into the fam­ily wealth and his sons went on to com­pletely dis­si­pate what re­mained. Grad­u­ally, the cas­tle build­ing de­te­ri­o­rated and the col­lapse of the floors and parts of the roof leaves only a shell stand­ing. It is now con- sidered un­safe and is reg­is­tered as ‘a build­ing at risk’.

Var­i­ous at­tempts to re­store the build­ing by the Mid­dle­ton fam­ily, cur­rent own­ers of the house and its poli­cies, have come to noth­ing and it re­mains to­day a crum­bling re­minder of a time and way of life now long gone.

Dis­tiller’s new role

SI­MON COUGH­LIN, chief ex­ec­u­tive at Bruich­lad­dich Dis­tillery, is tak­ing over the man­age­ment of a newly cre­ated Whisky Busi­ness Unit within the par­ent group Remy Coin­treau.

This fol­lows the French com­pany’s re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of the Do­maine des Hautes Glaces in France and the West­land Dis­tillery in Amer­ica.

The Do­maine des Hautes Glaces, a small farm dis­tillery high in the French Alps, grow its own ce­re­als for dis­til­la­tion, while the much larger Amer­i­can con­cern in Seat­tle con­cen­trates on lo­cal bar­ley, peat and oak.

The par­ent com­pany’s ex­pan­sion will draw heav­ily on Si­mon’s ex­pe­ri­ence at Bruich­lad­dich as it moves for­ward.

Al­though he has played a vi­tal part in the dis­tillery’s life since its res­ur­rec­tion 2000, he took over the chief ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tion when Remy Coin­treau bought the dis­tillery in 2012.

While for­mer wine mer­chant Si­mon will re­main Is­lay-based, he will be in over­all con­trol of the three com­pa­nies.

Tak­ing over as the new chief ex­ec­u­tive will be Dou­glas Tay­lor, the cur­rent global brand di­rec­tor, who has been part of the Bruich­lad­dich team for the past six years. Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bow­more, Is­lay PA43 7JX. Tele­phone: 01496 810 658

Kil­dal­ton Cas­tle.

Si­mon Cough­lin

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