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Issue 76 - Painting the riverred

Whisky Magazine Issue 76
November 2008


This article is 9 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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Painting the riverred

Gavin D Smith heads out to the the Outer Hebrides to see what's going on.

A visit to Abhainn Dearg distillery is not to be undertaken lightly.There is a clue in the name, for one thing.Abhainn Dearg is Gaelic for Red River, and the distillery is located on the remote Atlantic coast of the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis,where bilingual signposts, with Gaelic taking precedence, are the norm.

The journey begins with a flight or ferry trip to Stornoway, the capital of Lewis, generally better known for its characterful marag dhu or black pudding than for its whisky.

From Stornoway you drive due west for some 30 miles, much of it along single track roads, through a bleakly beautiful landscape in which rocks, water and wandering sheep figure prominently. Finally you come to a rambling salmon hatchery by the aforementioned Red River, which just happens to boast Scotland's newest licensed distillery and the only (legal) whisky-making operation in the Outer Hebrides.

The owner and distiller of this enterprise is the affable Stornowegian former construction worker turned recycling merchant – “they don't call it scrap these days!”– Mark Tayburn.

“Any further west and you'd be in America!” he proclaims, opening the door of a newlyconstructed, utilitarian building that forms the distillery production area. Everything is on a comparatively small scale, but the pair of 7,000 litre washbacks are reassuringly traditional, made from Douglas Fir by Speyside-based Joseph Brown Vats of Dufftown Ltd, and the two stainless steel 2,000 litre mashtuns are s...

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