‘Water of life’
‘Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky’, so the old proverb says. Whisky is nothing without its water, and water for our whisky will come from our own lands, trickling down from the hills of the Cabrach in the same way as it would have done in the days of illicit distilling.
Malt whisky country
Located on the eastern fringes of Speyside, and just over the hill from its famous neighbour, Glenlivet, the Cabrach lies in the heart of Malt Whisky country. The region has a long and rich tradition of whisky production stretching back into the mists of time. There is historical evidence of distilling being practiced in the Cabrach at least as far back as the 1600’s, and quite possibly earlier. In the mid 1800’s there were three licensed distilleries operating in the Cabrach and sources suggest that at one time prior to this, there may have been up to 400 pot stills in operation in the parish.
The Cabrach’s intensely rich history of illicit whisky production, smuggling, migration and land battles is the story of Scotland in miniature.
Despite its remoteness, the Cabrach was once a thriving hub of whisky distilling activity with whisky production on a significant scale. Local farms drew the barley and two local mills providing the grist.
In the 18th century the Cabrach was famous for its illicit whisky industry and some claim the area as the birthplace of Scottish malt whisky. Local inhabitants mixed farming and illicit distilling with consummate skill, using the remote landscape and difficult to access farms to create a well organised underground network of illicit stills and a communication network designed to evade customs and excise raids.
The smugglers distributed spirits locally, nationally and beyond and were known to have had skirmishes and even bloody battles with any figures of authority who tried to stop them.
In 1823, after a number of attempts by Government to put an end to illicit distilling and smuggling, a new Act of Parliament heralded in the era of commercial distilling.
In the 1820s licenses were issued for three new distilleries in the Cabrach: Lesmurdie, (also known as Cabrach), Tomnaven, and Blackmiddens or ‘Buck’. The new Cabrach distillery aims to be a small working distillery operating as it would have operated at the advent of licenced distilling which was a time when licencing made it viable for farm distilleries to operate on a small commercial scale.
‘Cabrach’ and ‘The Cabrach’ are both registered trademarks for Cabrach single malt whisky.