It’s October which can mean only one thing – it’s the count down to Halloween! It’s officially the month where we enjoy telling each other scary stories and celebrating all things spooky. Luckily here in Scotland, we have plenty of bone-chilling tales to scare even the strongest stomached amongst us. The Scotch whisky industry is especially known for having a haunted tale or two, we even use the term “ghost distilleries” to describe a distillery that’s closed and no longer in operation… spooky we know! Thankfully, the distilleries that we’re focusing on for our whiskies of the month are not ghost distilleries, but they do have some spooky stories to share with us…
Lowlands – Kingsbarns “Dream to Dram“
Our first distillery can be found in the Lowlands near St. Andrews, which is of course a destination famous for its rich golf heritage. However that’s not all it’s famous for, the town also has quite a few bone-tingling ghost stories to tell. The spooky story we are focusing on thankfully doesn’t feature any gruesome or scary apparitions, but rather the tale of the friendly monk in St. Rules Tower.
St. Rules Tower is the tallest tower in St. Andrew’s Cathedral grounds and it is a very popular destination for visitors of the historic seaside town. In the 1950’s a story unfolded of a visitor who claimed that a “kindly monk” had asked if he wanted help up the stairs of the tower. The visitor refused the help of the monk and carried on up the stairs, however on walking past the monk up the tight staircase of St Rules Tower, he is said to have felt only thin air where the spectre stood…
Close to St. Andrews you will find the Kingsbarns distillery, which is a newly built distillery, with their construction only ending in 2014. This means that their “Dream to Dram” expression is the first ever public release from the distillery! This expression is a great example of how great a young whisky can be, dispelling the myth that Scotch whisky is “only good after 10 years of maturation in the cask”.
This whisky is incredibly sweet, citrusy and tropical making it the perfect refreshing dram after a round of golf!
Highlands – Highland Park Valknut
From St. Andrews in the Lowlands, we are now travelling to the Highlands and in fact one of the most northerly parts of Scotland, the Orkney Isles. With a history dating back to Norse and Pictish times there is a lot of history and heritage on these majestic isles.
If you make your way to the rugged west coast of mainland Orkney you will find Skaill House. This fine mansion is said to be built on top of an ancient Pictish burial ground which has lead to numerous reports of ghostly figures and apparitions in the House’s empty rooms!
Half an hour’s drive away from Skaill House you will find the Highland Park distillery. Highland Park prides itself with its Viking origins and the Valknut expression is a perfect example of that. In Norse mythology, the Valknut is a symbol of three interlinking triangles and the name means “knot of those slain in battle”. The symbol is associated with the Norse god Odin, who guided the spirits of the dead to the underworld and back to the world of the living.
This single malt was made using local peated malt and matured mainly in sherry seasoned oak casks giving it a smoky and sweet flavour.
Speyside – Glen Moray 15
We are now moving back to the mainland, and to the town of Elgin in Speyside. Elgin is a town full of spooky stories, and just like here in Edinburgh, they host ghost tours, the perfect opportunity for you to take part and find out all about the paranormal goings-on of the town.
Based just on the outskirt of the town, Elgin’s local distillery is Glen Moray, which also has quite a grisly bit of history attached to it. The Glen Moray distillery was built on the plot that once housed the burgh’s gallows many years before! Don’t worry though, thankfully the whisky made at the distillery isn’t quite as terrifying.
The 15-year-old expression that we have chosen is a classic style of a Speyside single malt. It is fresh, fruity and sweet with hints of apples, fudge, and cinnamon.
Campbeltown – Glen Scotia 15
Campbeltown is also not immune to a haunting or two and the Glen Scotia distillery has one very specific spectre that haunts them. This is the story of Duncan MacCallum who died in “mysterious circumstances” close to the distillery..
On the night before Christmas Eve in 1930, local industrialist and distillery owner Duncan drowned himself in Crosshill Loch after a dodgy business deal which lost him a fortune. To this day the ghost of Duncan MacCallum remains at the distillery and he will allegedly make his presence known to visiting contractors to ensure no more business deals go bad for the distillery!
The 15-year-old expression will remind you of the seaside, with lots of mineral aromas and flavours of fudge, vanilla and sea spray.
Islay – Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition
To the west of Campbeltown you will find the island of Islay, which is known just as much for it’s history as it is for it’s whisky! One particular story you might hear, is one of Kildalton Castle which used to be near Port Ellen on the island.
One of the many stories surrounding the area is the “factor of Kildalton Castle”. It is said that the laird who lived in the castle had an employee who was said to have had a “very distinct appearance” and often needed to leave the island. During his absences, people still saw this man wandering around the castle. In fact, even after the man was dead and buried, two women claimed to see him in Craigmore Forest wandering around with a terrier dog!
Near the area where this all happened is the Lagavulin distillery. Our Islay whisky of the month is the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition, which is a Lagavulin that’s been “finished” in Pedro-Ximinez sherry casks which adds lots of sticky sweetness to the final whisky. This is still your classic Lagavulin though, with that sweetness complimenting the “bonfire by the beach” aromas and flavours that the distillery is famous for!
Blend – Chivas Regal 18
The main cities in Scotland have lots of blending heritage attached to them. If you wander around Edinburgh for example, you will see the legacy that Andrew Usher II left behind (considered to be the first Scotch whisky master blender). If we head north to the granite city of Aberdeen, you will see the legacy of the Chivas brothers who are the masters behind the Chivas Regal blended Scotch whisky. These two brothers (John and James) started blending in the 1800’s on King Street in Aberdeen.
King Street in the heart of Aberdeen has had numerous reports of strange goings-on, which link back to the 1860’s when the street was home to army barrack’s. Some of these reports include sightings of a soldier with bandages around his head and hands, others have seen a soldier in uniform (complete with white spats, a kilt and a greatcoat), cold spots have been felt in parts of the building, and the sound of two men having a conversation have been heard when nobody else was around!
The 18-year-old expression is a truly indulgent dram with lots of fudge and vanilla sweetness, orange peel, and a little bit of spice.
Liqueur – Edradour Cream Liqueur
We are now moving on to the town of Pitlochry, which is a great pit stop for anyone who is thinking of taking a road trip up to the Highlands. Pitlochry is a pretty town and a must for any whisky fans, with it being home to three different distilleries. It’s also home to some darker ghost stories as well.
One story you might hear about is the “Death Bogle of the Crossroads”. This is the story of a white spectral figure who reportedly haunts the crossroads in the centre of the town. It is even said that one touch from this “bogle” would mean certain death for the victim within the coming year!
One of the three distilleries in Pitlochry is Edradour which is described as “Scotland’s little gem” due to it being one of the smaller distilleries in Scotland. At the distillery they produce a truly decadent cream liqueur, reminding you of smooth white chocolate and rich hazelnuts.
Luxury – Glenmorangie Signet
Last, but definitely not least, we’re going to round off our ghostly journey at the little town of Tain, where you will find the Glenmorangie distillery. This distillery is famous for creating a light, delicate, and floral single malt but that doesn’t mean that weird, spooky things don’t happen in the night here.
Glenmorangie is allegedly haunted by “The White Lady” who reportedly haunts the distillery’s old floor maltings. This story isn’t just about sightings, this strange story actually says that “The White Lady” removes whole sheets of wallpaper at the distillery without even causing a tear!
Our luxury whisky of the month this month is the Glenmorangie Signet, which has been made using “chocolate malt”. The whisky is also matured in high quality sherry casks which gives the Signet aromas and flavours of dark, chocolate, mocha, and tiramisu!
As always, all these whiskies are available at the Amber bar and at the McIntyre bar at the end of your tour. We hope you have a spooky Halloween and as always, Slàinte Mhath!