Food & Drink: Burns' Night calls for a rare tot of grassy, sweet Lowland whisky

A surveyor more accustomed to assessing bomb-damage claims in his native Northern Ireland is reviving one of Scotland's most distinctive malt whisky distilleries. His efforts may save Bladnoch, the most southerly of Lowland whiskies and therefore the one most suitable for Monday's celebration of Rabbie Burns, who was born near Ayr and died in Dumfries.

Lowland whiskies most clearly express the fresh, grassy sweetness of barley, while Highlanders incline more to heathery, flowery flavours and the islanders to peat and seaweed.

Bladnoch was established between 1817 and 1825 as a farmhouse distillery using local barley. So remote is it that the nearest big city is Belfast.

That is where surveyor and builder Raymond Armstrong boarded the ferry one day in 1993 to visit the area in search of a holiday cottage. Unbeknown to him, a local election was underway. As he explored the gentle countryside, he was canvassed by a candidate for the Scottish Nationalists. Before Armstrong could explain that he was Irish, he was assailed with a tale of woe about the local distillery having just closed.

The Bladnoch malt whisky had for many years been used as an ingredient in the Bell's blend, but had become dispensable when that brand's owners were subsumed into a larger group, United Distillers. Armstrong's first thought was to buy the handsome stone distillery for his holiday home. The asking price was out of reach, but United Distillers dropped it greatly when he agreed not to distil there.

"But as I came to know and love the building, I realised that it should be used for its real purpose," explains Armstrong. "I talked to the owners and they realised that such a small distillery did not represent competition. On the contrary, the survival of small distilleries that can be visited by tourists helps maintain the integrity of Scotch whisky."

Most of the equipment remained, but Armstrong has spent about pounds 150,000 on restoring the distillery. Former stillman John Herries has been working on the project since last spring, and hopes to have Bladnoch in operation by May.

John's wife and his mother-in-law are organising tours, beginning mid- March. During the interregnum, tours have been provided by the local council and enterprise board. Much of the whisky will be sold to tourists at the distillery's own shop, though it will also continue to be available through specialist wine merchants (as are the examples reviewed below).

The resuscitation of Bladnoch is more significant in that other recent closures have ravaged the Lowlands as a whisky-producing region. The loss of a credible Lowlands appellation would damage overall interest in single malt whiskies, whose buyers like to explore regional styles. If Bladnoch succeeds, it may be a model for other revivals. The Littlemill distillery, at Bowling, between Glasgow and Dumbarton, also closed recently. It may date from 1772, making it one of the oldest in Scotland. Now there is a possibility that Littlemill's new owners may re-equip it to distil on a small scale.

Talks are also going on between United Distillers and British Waterways over the possible revival of the greatly respected Rosebank distillery, on the Forth-Clyde Canal at Falkirk. This would be part of a waterfront development. It is to be hoped, now that United Distillers is part of a larger corporate entity called Diageo, that its awareness of the area's industrial heritage survives.

Bladnoch tours 01988 402235

Burns' Night Lowlanders

Bladnoch Its typical lemongrass character is most evident in a 10-year-old in United Distillers' Flora and Fauna range. A 1986 Connoisseur's Choice, from Gordon and MacPhail, is fruitier and softer. A 17-year-old, bottled by Cadenhead's, is leafier and leaner. A 22-year-old, bottled by Adelphi, is drier and more rooty.

Littlemill This is usually found in the distillery's own bottling at eight years old. Its barley-malt flavours are reminiscent of toasted coconut and marshmallow.

Rosebank A 1981 distillation in United Distillers' Rare Malts range, has lots of clover and camomile. A 1988 bottling from Gordon and MacPhail has a beautiful balance of floweriness and sherry- wood. Murray McDavid, of Glasgow and London, has two bottlings of 1990 Rosebank: a lemony, honeyed example aged in fresh sherry casks, and a minty, sharp one from Bourbon casks.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Voices
The number of children in relative income poverty is currently 2.3 million in the UK
voices

Environment
A Brazilian wandering spider
natureIt's worth knowing for next time one appears in your bananas
Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 5 Teacher

    £80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past