Hugh Smith’s let­ter from Is­lay

The Oban Times - - News - Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bow­more, Is­lay PA43 7JX. Tele­phone: 01496 810 658.

Bun­na­hab­hain Dis­tillery

BUN­NA­HAB­HAIN is Is­lay’s most northerly dis­tillery, si­t­u­ated some eight miles from Port Askaig and sits on the shore of the Sound of Is­lay with views to the west coast of Jura and the isle of Colon­say.

Its Gaelic name means the mouth of the river and refers to the Mar­gadale wa­ter­way, whose clear spring wa­ter is an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent in the dis­till­ing process.

The dis­tillery was built in 1881 by Wil­liam Robertson who, along with broth­ers Wil­liam and James Green­lees, estab­lished the Is­lay Dis­tillers’ Com­pany.

Pro­duc­tion be­gan in 1883 and the sur­round­ing hous­ing was pro­vided to ac­com­mo­date the work­force.

When brew­ing and dis­till­ing his­to­rian Al­fred Barnard vis­ited the sprawl­ing Vic­to­rian dis­tillery he re­ferred to the work­force as num­ber­ing be­tween 40 and 50 em­ploy­ees and was im­pressed at the pro­vi­sion of a read­ing room and school where the work­ers’ chil­dren could re­ceive an el­e­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion.

The pro­vi­sion of an ap­proach road and dis­tillery pier at a cost of £ 3,500 was also a plus, al­though the work­ers must have re­garded a board of di­rec­tors’ in­struc­tion to the man­age­ment to dis­con­tinue the prac­tice of dol­ing out a free dram as a de­cided mi­nus.

In 1887, the com­pany merged with Wil­liam Grant and Son to form High­land Dis­tillers, which held sway un­til 1999 when con­trol passed to the Edring­ton Group.

This was a time of ex­pec­ta­tion and de­vel­op­ment with the rapid growth in Scotch whisky dur­ing the 1960s.

The num­ber of stills dou­bled in 1963, malt­ing floors were re­moved, but the good times were not to last. In 1982, the dis­tillery was moth­balled for two years and, when it re- opened, pro­duc­tion lev­els were kept low.

Bun­na­hab­hain had al­ways played a vi­tal role in the whisky blend­ing in­dus­try and its prod­ucts be­came an in­te­gral part of the Fa­mous Grouse, Cutty Sark and even­tu­ally Black Bot­tle port­fo­lio. By the end of the 1980s, it be­gan to emerge as a sin­gle malt which was ad­ver­tised with the mem­o­rable tagline ‘ the un­pro­nounce­able malt’.

It now en­joys great pop­u­lar­ity in a num­ber of African coun­tries and goes down a treat in Tai­wan.

In 2003, the Edring­ton Group sold the dis­tillery to Burn Ste­wart Dis­tillers who were owned by the Trinidad con­glom­er­ate C L Fi­nan­cial. When they crashed, the re­ceivers sold Burn Ste­wart four years ago to the African multi­na­tional drinks group Dis­tell, which is now Bun­na­hab­hain’s par­ent com­pany.

Like most oth­ers, the is­land dis­tillery has had its ups and downs but it now hap­pily con­tin­ues to op­er­ate suc­cess­fully un­der the ban­ner of the Bun­na­hab­hain Dis­tillery Com­pany.

Re­mem­ber­ing Fraser

THE un­timely death in May 2015 of piper, whis­tle player and com­poser Fraser Shaw sad­dened all who knew this skilled mu­si­cian and cast a gloom over those in­volved in the world of tra­di­tional Scot­tish mu­sic.

Fol­low­ing Fraser’s pass­ing, his fam­ily and mu­si­cal friends set up a trust in his mem­ory with the sole aim of rais­ing money for and height­en­ing the aware­ness of the re­lief of mul­ti­ple sclero­sis in gen­eral and in the Ar­gyll re­gion in par­tic­u­lar.

Be­fore his death he planned to re­lease a com­pi­la­tion of his com­po­si­tions with the pro­ceeds go­ing to the MC Care fa­cil­ity at Lochgilp­head. Sadly, his pro­gres­sive ill­ness pre­vented him from do­ing so.

Over the past year the trust mem­bers have been work­ing flat out to make Fraser’s dream come true and are now happy to an­nounce that a book and al­bum fea­tur­ing Fraser’s play­ing and com­po­si­tions are shortly to be re­leased un­der the ti­tle Mac Ìle – The Mu­sic of Fraser Shaw.

This will be of­fi­cially launched at a trib­ute con­cert in the Bruich­lad­dich vil­lage hall in June which will fea­ture a num­ber of the mu­si­cians par­tic­i­pat­ing on the al­bum. A sim­i­lar launch will take place in Glas­gow in Au­gust as part of the city’s Pip­ing Live! cel­e­bra­tion.

Bun­na­hab­hain Dis­tillery has views of Jura and Colon­say.

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