It may be a cliché but certain families have whisky in their blood — namely, the urge to make good whisky passes from generation to generation.
So, almost a century after the Loch Katrine Adelphi distillery closed in Glasgow’s Gorbals in 1907, one of the founder’s descendants, Jamie Walker, relaunched the Adelphi name in 1993 as a bottler of notable and idiosyncratic whiskies that have consistently won wide acclaim.
He then sold the firm to Keith Falconer and Donald Houston in 2004, who eventually faced the need for an “in-house” source of whisky. So, about five years ago, plans were drawn up for Ardnamurchan Distillery at Glenbeg on Loch Sunart, which started distilling in 2014 and was formally opened by Princess Anne. It is Scotland’s most westerly mainland distillery, sitting just a few miles from Ardnamurchan Point.
It has several notable features within its stark white-and-black exterior — a wood-fired boiler, an on-site maltings (no malt is trucked in) and, uniquely, four oak washbacks, while all other Scots distilleries use either pine, larch or stainless steel. As the distillery lies at the end of a long, winding single-track road with bridges only 3.3 metres (11 feet) wide, the mashtun, boiler and stills are exactly that diameter. Any wider and they wouldn’t have got there.
Two styles of malt whisky are distilled — peated and unpeated — with casks sourced from the US and Spain. Distillery tours operate every day bar Saturday and visitors can sample the fine new spirit that will have to slumber for many months yet until it can be sold as whisky.
You have to be keen to reach the distillery. From Fort William take the Corran Ferry, then head west through Strontian, Salen and Glenborrodale to reach Glenbeg. Alternatively, take the Mallaig road and branch off at Lochailort down through Moidart, Acharacle and Salen. Either route is stunning and it’s worth driving the extra miles from Glenbeg to Ardnamurchan Point.
I recently sampled some of Ardnamurchan’s best and found it stunning, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. If it tastes that good at 18 months, it’ll be a world beater in a few years’ time.