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Issue 49 - A distillery seeped in history (Clynelish)

Whisky Magazine Issue 49
July 2005

 

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A distillery seeped in history (Clynelish)

Ian Buxton travels North of Inverness to the remote distillery at Clynelish

Clynelish's significance in the history of Scotland might not be fully appreciated by the casual visitor. After all, everything is peaceful enough today in the small northern Highland resort of Brora – but its name is written in infamy, wreathed in myth and clouded by decades of propaganda, spin and deeply-felt emotion.

I can hardly believe I've written that. It seems over the top for Whisky Magazine, excessive, even florid. Yet there is no doubting the significance of the events surrounding the foundation of the distillery here and their part in the history and culture of modern Scotland. Oh, and the distillery is pretty important too.

A brief history lesson is called for.

Clynelish lies just to the north of Brora, itself some 70 miles north of Inverness, on the coastal plain. Go back as far as the 16th century and it was prosperous and progressive. The local landowners, the Earls of Sutherland, made it their business to establish Brora as a busy, working town.

The only coal mine in the Highlands was established as early as 1529. Later, a saltworks was set up and a brick works and a quarry, from where fine sandstone was used to construct London Bridge. On the Sutherland's 500,000 acre estate (yes, that's 0.5 million acres, not a typing error) a flourishing crofting community of tenant farmers got on with their lives – undramatic, largely unrecorded years of toil and hard labour.

Until the early part of the 19th century, that is.

After the Jacobite rising in 1745-46...

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