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Issue 72 - Stalking the stag

Whisky Magazine Issue 72
June 2008

 

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Stalking the stag

The Dalmore is a sleeping giant but it's starting to stir. Dominic Roskriw visited one of Scotland's strangest distilleries.

Early summer in the Highlands, and the scene outside the distillery is one of utter tranquillity.

The tide's out so Cromarty Firth is a mass of sand dune and rivulets.

A watery sun casts shadows across the estuary where sea birds are feeding at what turns out to be the end of one of the distillery's waste water pipes,where fish are attracted by the protein and warmer water.Two boys nonchalantly throw stones into the water.All, it seems, is well with the world.But not for long.

“We're all doomed,”someone bellows from the still room in their best Fraser-like manner.There's a cackle of laughter, a flurry of activity and a couple of shouts, and then silence falls once more like the whole incident never happened.

Welcome to the eccentric world that is the Dalmore Distillery.

It might look like a beacon of serenity with its battered Highland stone walls and imposing coastal façade, but you don't have to go very beneath the surface to discover that working at the distillery is akin to steering a speedboat through a gale.There are distilleries where the stillman turns up, presses some buttons and sits back with one eye on the computer screen and the other on the day's sport pages, but The Dalmore isn't one of them.

Making spirit here is an edge of the seat experience, a daily challenge to tame the distillery's production quirks and to sidestep the restraints nature imposes on it because of its location. Optimists would say there's never a dull moment; pessimists, that maki...

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