Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
communities were very proud about getting this new bridge; they sponsored a series of
events to celebrate its opening, one of which I was involved in (if I recall correctly I was
invited because I wrote a book called The Bridge . I wonder if I wrote a novel called The
New Ferrari …? Na, forget it). The road contains a good mix of straights and twists there-
after before the town of Golspie, followed a few miles later by Brora. Just outside Golspie
is Dunrobin Castle, a slightly bizarre if undeniably dramatic construction with an argu-
ably inappropriate amount of Loire châteaux about it, even for the locally mild climate of
this eastern coast. The place also has unfortunate associations with the worst excesses of
the Clearances, when the crofters - the small-scale farmers of the Highlands and Islands
- were driven off their lands at gunpoint and their homes torched to make way for sheep
and cattle. So, like Culloden, it remains a place I'm waiting to be in the right mood to
Clynelish is, anyway, sort of a start.
The original Clynelish distillery was built in 1819 at the instigation of the Marquis of
Stafford, who was later to become the First Duke of Sutherland. There was a lot of illicit
distilling in the area and the Marquis apparently felt that it was much to be preferred that
he invest in a licence and satisfy the local demand - and make a tidy profit out of it -
rather than have the local crofters flout the law of the land and scrape together a few extra
pennies. 1819 was a busy year for the Sutherlands; while the distillery was going up, so
were 250 crofts, in flames, the better to persuade their inhabitants of the desirability of
cattle-farming as opposed to, say, feeding their families.
Clynelish has a wide, open view towards the sea. The new buildings are somewhere
between inelegant and plain ugly, but it's a cared-for-looking sort of place with well-ten-
ded grounds - dotted with wildly flowering cherry trees at this time of year.
It's really two distilleries. The old Clynelish distillery was renamed Brora when the
new plant was completed in 1968 and it produced one of the great lost giants of the world
of single malts; a peatily intense beauty combining some of the best characteristics of a
Highland and an Island whisky. Brora was shut down in 1983 and the whisky is becom-
ing harder to find these days. I found a Rare Malts 24-year-old from 1977 at the distil-
lery shop, clocking in at a fairly throat-catching 56.1 abv. It truly is a cracker; seaweedy,
smoky, redolent of docksides thick with coiled, tarry rope and containing a spice rack full
of hot, intense flavours. It would not be technically impossible to start production again
at Brora, but it appears it's unlikely. A shame.
Clynelish itself, the product of the modern distillery and its very large stills, is cer-
tainly nothing to be ashamed of; the 14-year-old - which seems to be pretty much the
standard age for this whisky to be bottled at - is a similarly briny, tarry, almost oily dram,
also strong on pepper and mustard flavours though much less peaty compared to Brora
and anyway somehow greener smelling and tasting; certainly sufficiently distinct from its
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