The Isle of Skye is often overshadowed by Scotland’s other premium whisky-making isles. But a new distillery is expanding its portfolio.
Mossburn Distillers’ first bottlings at its Torabhaig distillery on Skye were in 2017 and were a range of classic Independent Bottler Malts.
Torabhaig, which took four years to build, is the second legal distillery on the island after the better-known Talisker. A second Mossburn distillery, Teivers, is in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders.
Using water from the Allt Breacach and Allt Gleann Burns, nine distillers produce the latest Skye whiskies on Skye – John Mackinnon, Neil Nicolson, Niall Culbertson, Douglas Stewart, Iona Macphie, David McKellar, Kieran Roberts, and Myra Campbell. They produce 1.5m bottles a year.
When it comes to “the intricate dialogue between the spirit and the oak”, the collective approach is “without haste”.
Mossburn’s latest release, Caisteal Chamois, is named after a thirteenth castle on the headland of the eastern flank of Knock Bay. It is on the site of an Iron Age fort known as Dun Torabhaig.
Ancient lore holds that the ghosts of bloody battles at Caisteal Chamuis float through the mist on the foggy Hebridean island.
Sir Iain Noble, the man who founded Noble Grossart, Scotland’s first modern merchant bank, moved to the Isle of Skye in 1972. He purchased 20,000 acres of land, including a hotel at Isle Ornsay, which had been part of Lord Macdonald’s estate.
Noble – who founded independent, small batch blender and bottler Pràban na Linne (”shebeen of the firth”) which produce the lightly peated blend Te Bheag Nan Eilean – or Little Lady Dram of The Isles, Mac Na Mara (“son of the sea”) and Gaelic Whiskies’ Poit Dru or black pot). – planned to convert a 19th century listed farm steading at Torabhaig into a distillery. He’d obtained planning permission for the project as early as 2002, dying in 2010 before his dream could be realized.
Mossburn Distillers, a subsidiary of drinks group Marussia Beverages, completed the project.
Caisteal Chamuis 12-Year-Old is made from a blend of single malts all distilled on Islay and Orkney
The brand debuts with two expressions, Caisteal Chamuis 12-Year-Old Sherry Barrelled Blended Malt Scotch Whisky and Caisteal Chamuis Bourbon Barrelled Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.
“We are united in a common goal. To make something new, noteworthy and bring something unique to the table. We are whisky makers for whisky people,” says Mossburn’s CEO, Neil Macleod Mathieson.
“The spirit of intrigue runs through our DNA. It#s at the heart of the whiskies we imagine and create. We strive to see beyond the obvious, always choosing the road less traveled. There are no maps, and it is as much about the journey as the destination.
“We have been independent whisky-makers and blenders for some time, nurturing expertise and skills in blending, and assembling a range of mature Single Malt stocks.
Mathieson had “the happy task of designing the distillery”. He founded Eaux De Vie Ltd, building a successful business specializing in importing spirits of interest for the more discerning customer. He predicted and pioneered the current global ‘craft’ trend and was the first in the UK to seek out and import a portfolio of US craft whiskies.
“We started importing US whiskies back in the late 1980s and craft products just before 2000/Some of them like Aviation gin and St George’s have become better known, others have not been quite so successful. On US whiskies we brought in some smaller distillers like Leopold’s, Copperfox & Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. Being in at the beginning of their export lives with Cooley and Mackmyra was very exciting although the first 10 years of CompassBox’s work was also up there.”
The company soon grew into an independent bottler, releasing its first Scotch Whiskies in 1992 and been instrumental in achieving the company’s ambition of building an authentic Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery in one of Scotland’s most dramatic locations.
The more famous Skye distillery Talisker stands on the shores of Loch Harport at Carbost on the Minginish peninsula. It was originally established in 1830 when the Macaskill brothers from the neighboring isle of Eigg decided to create their own whisky to sell, rather than relying on the popular yet inconsistent moonshine-style spirit cooked up by local crofters.
Caisteal Chamuis 12-Year-Old has been matured in oloroso sherry butts, resulting in a ‘rich and smooth’ whisky with a ‘complex fragrant, heathery, lavender‐like peat’. It’s finished in first‐fill Bourbon casks.