Two forward-looking distilleries are reviving the traditions of whisky making, writes Robin Lee.

It the ltot'tlt-east side of

life‘s l.otnond hills lies

the llowe (if life. it fertile plain bounded in part by the Riyer lidcn swaying with barley. l’rancis ('uthbert‘s family haye farmed here for six generations. as well its haying a small interest in a nearby quarry. Now (‘uthbert plans to use the barley in the farm’s fields recently green and grassy to make whisky.

The family's l)aftmill distillery is almost complete. .-\ few pipes are still to he fitted. and the marble floor of the distillery office is being laid. 0111 of the sunshine and inside recently conyerted farm buildings. the slitlliless steel and polished copper \‘essels follow the same logic of all distilleries. except here \‘alyes and obscryation windows feel o\ et‘si/ed. 'l‘llzll‘s because the stills are barely legal. just oyer the minimum capacity allowed by customs and excise. l)afttnill is taking whisky back as close to it roots as is allowed to the farm—

scale distillery.

The original idea was to begin production early in 2005. but (‘uthbert is tinflustered. ‘We don‘t haye a schedule. so we can’t he behind.‘ he says. "l’hings haye taken longer than we hoped.‘

Across the country. on the island

of May and spiritual birthplace of

uisge beatha. the first new distillery for some IZ—l years was oflicially

opened on the first weekend of

.lune. timed to coincide with the isle‘s annual whisky festiyal. Based at Rockside liarm on the westerly Rhinns of lslay. Kilchoman is also a micro-producer. styling itself as ‘lslay’s farm distillery". using barley grown on site. In truth. howeyer. it too is not quite ready to produce whisky.

But whereas l)aftmill is quietly preparing itself. Kilchoman has been on a publicity push. lslay tourist brochures already highlight the operation. It has a gift slltlp/Vlslltll‘ centre that is smart and

lull of tasteful eyen cleyer

Daftmill and its still (left and below left); Kilchoman and its cafe (below and bottom)

souyenirs and mementos. while the adjacent cafe would not be out of place in an lidinburgh arts yenue. quite honestly.

‘We‘re trying to remind people how it all started.’ says Anthony Wills. Kilchoman‘s managing director. "l‘here were once l8 farm distilleries on lslay and there‘s a huge amount of history connected to it. lslay is one of the top malt whisky regions in Scotland. and recently there's been great entltusiasm for malt whisky.‘

Wills has been involved in the bottling of single malt for nearly a dozen years. He and Kilchoman's distillery manager Malcolm Rennie (preyiously of Ardbeg) plan to create the ‘ultimate‘ single tnalt. aimed at the premium and niche end of the market: the connoisseur and enthusiast. especially those in whisky clubs and societies in


.lapan. Scandinayia. and the ['8. It’s a slick and ambitious pitch and. indeed. sortie of the future product has already been bought 'en primeur'.

Though neither l)aftmill nor Kilchoman has yet to see a drop of cloudy. barley—soaked water transformed into new-make spirit. both plan to start distilling in the autumn. and will join l’itlochry‘s lidradour as the smallest distilleries in Scotland. lidradour was established in 1825 and has

withstood the rise and fall of single malt‘s fortunes oyer the years. Whether Daftmill and Kilchoman make headway is difficult to predict: it will be several years until the first bottlings. and distilleries can become notorious money pits for inyestors who speculate at the wrong time.

:\t Daftntill. (‘uthbert displays a bit of caution that counterpoints Wills“ clear confidence on lslay. What sort of people will be buying Daftmill in the next decade? ‘We‘ll happily sell to anybody.’ (‘uthbert says. Perhaps it is just farming fatalism. ‘lt‘s all yery well building a distilleryf he says. ‘Running it is expensiye. We might need to bring one out earlier than we would haye liked. But hopefully we cart wait until it‘s good and ready.’ When asked ’Why whisky." he replies: ‘It was just one of these things that we thought we might do one day. We got speaking to some people in the industry. and they said. "Why don‘t you then?”

'So. we looked into it a bit further and discoyered that we could.’ he continues. ‘Whether we should haye done it remains to be seen.‘ The Daftmill distillery has no plans to open to the public.

it is Aug; LUV