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Issue 80 - Coming on song

Whisky Magazine Issue 80
June 2009

 

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Coming on song

Dominic Roskrow looks at four distilleries that have recently passed a big milestone.

The reopening of a distillery is a cause for celebration and is recognised as such. But perhaps just as significant is the day when the distillery bottles its first whisky made entirely of post-reopening malt.

“Islanders carried children on their shoulders to witness the historic moment.

They lined the Islay shore. The single morning plane, bringing more guests, was running late. The people on the shore scanned the skies. They had waited 10 years; what was another hour? Lovers of Bruichladdich had come from London, Seattle and Tokyo. There were tears of joy, a ceilidh, and fireworks at midnight.” The late Michael Jackson's description of the reopening of Bruichladdich in 2001 captures perfectly the sense of occasion created by the reopening of a distillery.

Not just when new spirit is set to flow, either. Speak to those tasked with renovating a disused distillery and putting it back in working order and they will talk of the same sense of excitement and expectation. Here's Jackie Thomson on the moment she first set eyes on Ardbeg.

“It was in a terrible state and I wondered what I had let myself in for. It needed a lot of tender loving care, a lot of work and a lot of paint. But you could see straightaway what a special place it was, and what potential it had.” A whisky distillery is cherished by the community it operates in and when one is mothballed or closed it becomes a sulky monument to failure, its silence casting a shadow over everyone connected to it.

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