Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
THE SEARCH FOR the perfect dram leads to the quest for the secret still, just because whisky
and the making of it is largely about tradition, about history, and so much of whisky's past
is written in the vanishing ink of clear, illegal, governmentally unsanctioned raw spir-
it. There is a feeling that by finding and tasting spirit produced recently from a small,
domestic-scale still hidden in the hills, half buried with heather turfs by the side of a
stream, the way they all used to be, somehow it will be possible to connect with a romant-
ic past that modern-day whisky is still informed by and may well benefit from comparis-
on with.
The search for the perfect dram leads to beautiful or honestly workmanlike distilleries
scattered throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, their presence signalled by tall
chimneys, acres of warehouses and white-on-brown tourist signposts, it leads you to Vis-
itor Centres full of smiling, helpful people in tartan, it leads you to audio-visual displays,
carefully lit blonde wood and gleaming stainless steel, it leads to precisely laid-out car
parks, dainty flower beds, neatly stacked displays of whisky marmalade and whisky mus-
tard and whisky fudge and bottles and decanters made in the shape of stills, it leads you to
cash registers and credit card terminals and plastic bags with the distillery's web address
printed on them.
The quest for a secret still - inspired by a single lead, a years-old report from some-
body who knows somebody - leads to a long journey in the slack water between summer
and autumn and a breeze-stroked hillside with the smell of the sea curling from the dis-
tant shore. It leads to a short track and a locked gate, a clamber and a hike and a feeling of
exposure, walking up the grassed strip between deep ruts, the soil and the slow-swaying
grasses damp from earlier showers. It leads to a straggled collection of disused buildings,
an old farm, all tumbled, broken down. It leads to tall grasses, banks of nettles and an-
cient bales of square-mesh wire, flattened by time and infested with weeds; to crumbling
stone walls, half rough-casted, and to rotting wooden window frames, the glass so long
shattered and resmashed the ragged, finger-high margin left feels nearly edgeless, merely
The interiors are mostly open to the clouds, some mounded with chaotic, waist-high
rubble, one sloped with rusting corrugated iron, one still mostly shielded from the ele-
ments; a half-intact floor and a view up the slope towards a small stream, angling beneath
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