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Issue 51 - Licensed to still

Whisky Magazine Issue 51
October 2005


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Licensed to still

They fought the law,and they won. Dominic Roskrow visits Drumchork Lodge

Some time next year, after just less than nine years at Drumchork Lodge, John Clotworthy and Frances Oates will fulfil a dream.

They will officially become distillers.

Not just any old distillers, either: distillers in charge of Britain's smallest legal distillery and the only one kept in a garage. Adistillery that will offer visitors the chance to distil their own whisky in as close to the old-fashioned way as it is possible to get.

The importance of this might not be immediately obvious. But when you get to know the remote region which plays host to Drumchork, it takes on a new significance. The village of Aultbea is situated on the shore of Loch Ewe, north of Poolewe in the North-West of Scotland.

This is astoundingly beautiful, but remote, rugged and under-populated terrain. There is little here beyond some farming and fishing. Certainly no distilleries.

Down the way at Gairloch they talk of their local dram as Glen Ord, but that's way away, back East close to Inverness. Across the water Talisker is produced on Skye.

Nothing on this stretch of mainland though.

Breath-taking as it may be to a tourist visiting on a bright late summer day, it's a region where everything, from the economy to the elements, is a struggle.

During the tourist months people travel here in droves: for the scenery, the tourist attractions (you'd be hard pushed to find more dramatic, endowed and diverse gardens than those of Inverewe) the hospitality, and perhaps most of all, the history. Thi...

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