Noble plans

Noble plans

As the Gaelic whisky company hits the big 30,Ian Buxton takes a trip to Skye to find out what's next

News | 10 Nov 2006 | Issue 60 | By Ian Buxton

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Guests at the 30th anniversary party for Sir Iain Noble’s Pràban na Linne Gaelic whisky company enjoyed two birthday surprises: the sampling of a new 30 year Poit Dhubh limited edition bottling and a trip to the site of the company’s proposed new distillery.Pràban na Linne was established in 1976 by landowner and merchant banker Sir Iain in order to promote the economic regeneration of the Sleat peninsula on Skye, then badly in need of investment and employment.While other ventures such as a knitwear business and a fish farm have come and gone, Pràban na Linne has prospered and the socalled ‘Gaelic’ whiskies have proved an international success.With labelling all in the Gaelic language, the whiskies proved appealing to the local market and subsequently found an enthusiastic reception from tourists and then further afield. France is now the company’s largest market, especially for the MacNaMara blend, a light and floral blend also available in a rum cask finish.At the reception the company launched their anniversary bottling – a 30 year old Poit Dhubh un-chill-filtered malt. This is a limited edition bottling, restricted to 720 bottles, all of which are numbered (though, disappointingly for collectors, the edition size is not shown on the label).However, as Pràban na Linne’s Sales Manager Gordon Hynd pointed out, this is whisky for drinking, not gathering dust in a cabinet.“After trying various samples our tasting panel unanimously picked the style we have bottled, and chose a 43% strength. This drank the best and was preferred for its depth of flavour,” he explained.The company will not be drawn on the source of the whisky, though it is packaged for them by a leading independent bottler.Pràban na Linne’s own literature alludes mischievously to an “illicit still” (Poit Dhubh being the Gaelic term for this) – perhaps sadly, though, this is a piece of marketing whimsy for the tourists.Be that as it may, the whisky is rich, fullflavoured and evidently long in sherry wood of high quality.In fact, it was admitted that the 30 years old age statement was picked to match the anniversary rather than being strictly accurate.The spirit is actually some 36 years old, this being the quality that was felt appropriate - so drinkers get more than their money’s worth.Looking forward, more detail was provided on the company’s proposed new distillery at Toravaig on Skye.This will be a conversion from dilapidated 18th century farm buildings by Edinburgh based architects Simpson & Brown, who have previously worked at Dewar’s World of Whisky and Strathisla distillery.Planning permission has been obtained, and work is expected to start on the first phase shortly.A visitor centre is anticipated to be open by Spring 2007, with the distillery opening in 2008.Bottling on site may follow in due course.Importantly, up to 10 new jobs could be created in an area now seen as a model for rural economic regeneration.The distillery will operate on the same kind of scale as recent openings at Kilchoman and Daftmill, aiming to produce a premium-priced high quality and distinctive single malt.Individual cask sales may be offered for private sale, though this is finally to be determined.“We’re a small company determined to be innovative,” claimed Sir Iain. “Look out for more surprises from Pràban na Linne in the near future.”Pràban na Linne
Isle Oronsay, Skye. IV43 8QR.
+44(0)1471 833 496
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