The Clynelish Distillery as it is, sits with one foot past, and one foot in the future. Owned now by Diageo, it is a testament to how Whisky creation might have faltered, but now runs from strength to strength.
Clynelish or Brora, has it roots in perhaps the most turbulent time in Scottish history. The Distillery was opened in 1819, during the Highland Clearances, by the Marquess of Stafford who went on to be the Duke of Sutherland. The town of Brora on the east coast of the Highlands, has over time been home to many different industries, including coal, boat building, fish curing, it was also the first place in the North of Scotland to have electricity thanks the wool industry.
Side by side sit two Distilleries. The older Brora on the right, and the Clynelish on the left. They compliment each other and tell the tale of how the Scottish Whisky industry has survived over time.
Immense windows reflect the light that shines on the six Stills in the newer Distillery, three wash, and three spirit that are mostly making spirit for Johnnie Walker, but also make their own wonderful single malt.
The tour starts in their small tasting rooms and shop, and leads you upstairs to their Washbacks and Mash tun. These are in an enormous room and the delicious smells seep up into the atmosphere. From here it is downstairs to the Stills and where the action is, or can be. In front of the Stills is a coffee table and chairs for those hardworking Distillery men.
Heading outside, you will be lead down to the warehouses and old filling store, where you can step back into the past, back to the days when customs and excise man sat in his office making sure no Whisky was being walked away illicitly.
In 2016 Clynelish is undergoing some changeovers, including changing some stills, and becoming computerised. For lucky visitors, instead you can look around the old Brora Distillery.
Wrapping your lips around the Clynelish Single Malt is a very good idea. Although they keep it very quiet, their dram is wonderful and deserves to be tasted.
© Gabrielle Balfour 2016