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article imageScotch whisky production resumes in Scotland's deep south

By Robert Myles     Nov 18, 2014 in Food
Annan - A little bit of whisky history was made in Scotland last weekend as the Annandale Distillery, near Annan, Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland’s far south, opened its doors to the public and resumed whisky production after a gap of 95 years.
Whisky was last distilled at the Annandale Distillery almost a century ago but bringing the old distillery back into production has been the long held ambition of Dumfries-born Professor David Thomson, a sensory and consumer scientist, and his wife, Teresa Church, a nutritionist.
So much so that Thomson and Church took the plunge and acquired the moribund maltings in 2007. Whisky production had ceased at the Annandale Distillery in 1919. In the intervening years before restoration work began, part of the distillery had been used as an adjunct to a business manufacturing porridge oats with the distillery maltings, kiln and mash house converted into a grain drying plant. Meanwhile the bonded warehouses at the same site that once stored casks of whisky were used to house cattle.
Since acquiring the Annandale Distillery in 2007 Thomson and Church have supervised a £10.5 million re-development project with the aim of reviving whisky production at the historic site.
Their efforts reached a milestone last weekend as the first cask of whisky was filled and members of the public were welcomed at a new visitor centre that forms part of the re-development of the distillery.
When the Annandale Distillery was last involved in whisky production in the early part of the twentieth century it was owned by the famous Johnny Walker label but its history goes back much further.
The impressive distillery buildings, now listed as a category B historic building by Historic Scotland, were originally built by George Donald, an excise man from Elgin in the north of Scotland. The Annandale Distillery’s first period of whisky production spanned the years between 1836 and 1883.
In 1883, the tenancy of the whisky plant passed to John Gardner, the son of a former mayor of Liverpool. Ten years later, in 1893, Johnnie Walker, famous for its Black Label and Red Label blended Scotch whiskies, acquired Annandale Distillery, retaining it till 1924 when whisky production ceased.
Professor Thomson has always held a fascination for whisky production so when the chance arose to acquire a distillery in his home region of Dumfries and Galloway, it was difficult to resist. Since acquisition, restoration of the distillery has become a “labour of love” for Thomson and Church, whose careers, when they aren’t restoring the distillery, are in the very different world of global consumer research.
A total refurbishment of the former distillery  constructed in the local red sandstone  was required...
A total refurbishment of the former distillery, constructed in the local red sandstone, was required before whisky production could resume at Scotland's newest distillery, the Annandale Distillery near Annan, Dumfries & Galloway.
Martyn Jenkins via Flickr CC License
After gaining all necessary planning and historic building permissions, restoration work started on the distillery in 2011. Now, three years on, the buildings that had fallen into disrepair have been transformed. Much of the traditional red sandstone, a hallmark of many buildings in the historic Royal burgh of Annan, has been reclaimed from disused buildings at the nearby Castlemilk Estate.
The result is an impressively refurbished distillery housing shiny new copper stills, specially designed malt kiln, handcrafted wash backs and mash tun, all ready to start production of uisce beatha — literally ‘the water of life’ in Scots Gaelic — or as it’s known worldwide today, whisky.
The new whisky production facilities in the fully restored Annandale Distillery near Annan  Dumfries...
The new whisky production facilities in the fully restored Annandale Distillery near Annan, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland.
Martyn Jenkins via Flickr CC License
Annandale Distillery will produce two styles of whisky. Both variations have strong connotations to two of Scotland’s most iconic figures King Robert the Bruce, who defeated the English armies at Bannockburn in 1314, and Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns.
The choice of these figures is deliberate since both Bruce and Burns have strong local connections. King Robert the Bruce, apart from being king of Scots, was also the 7th Earl of Annandale. It’s Bruce who’s inspired Annandale Distillery’s smoky, peaty, single malt “Man O’ Sword” label, which the distillery describes as “the single malt whisky of kings”. Meanwhile, Robert Burns, who spent much of the later years of his short life in Dumfries-shire, is the inspiration for Annandale’s non- smoky “Man O’ Words” single malt.
But those wishing to sample a tipple of the first cask to be filled at Annandale Distillery for almost a century will require some patience as it will remain at the distillery maturing in a second-fill American white oak bourbon barrel for at least 10 years.
The first production casks of “Man O’ Sword” and “Man O’ Words” will be ready by end 2017. Annandale Distillery also intends producing its own blended Scotch whisky called Nation of Scots.
As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
More about Annandale Distillery, scotch whisky, new whiskies, Scottish distilleries, whisky production
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