|- Scotch Whisky -
The Water of Life
Possibly the most important book ever to be published on the subject of whisky is Alfred
Barnard's classic "The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom". In the mid-80s of the 19th
century, Barnard and several companions undertook an extraordinary journey - utilising every
mode of transport available at the time, from steamer to horse drawn carriage, they traveled
the length and width of the United Kingdom in order to visit every whisky distillery they could.
The commission for this journey came from Harper's Weekly Gazette, who subsequently
published Barnard's book in 1887.
Alfred Barnard began his journey in the spring of 1885 and ended his travels toward the end of
the following year having visited and chronicled an amazing 129 distilleries in Scotland, 28 in
Ireland and four in England. In reading his book, three things become evident. For one, Barnard
openly loved the scenery presented to him in his travels. Secondly his enthusiasm for whisky
and the distilling industry and finally, his interest and attention to the technical details of
production. His historical and technical chronicles are invaluable when looking at whisky making
in the late 19th century.
To give you a flavour of the book, here is the introduction to his visit to the Ardbeg distillery:
RESUMING our journey in pursuit of Distilleries, we left the vast Whisky centre, Campbeltown, at the
early hour of six in the morning, bound for the port of Tarbert, to catch the boat to Islay. The air was
crisp and the first few hours of the long drive chilly, but the morning sun soon filled our hearts with
gladness, and we were nabled once aain to enjoy the delightful scenery through which we passed
and which has been described in a former chapter. Upon due arrival at West Tarbert we boarded the
steamer bound for Port Ellen, a journey occupying some hours, yet withal rendered pleasant by
weather that was all that could be desired. Tired and hungry after our long day we were glad to reach
our destination, and immediately on landing proceeded to the "White Hart Inn " where for several
days we took up our quarters, and found the accommodation excellent and the attendants obliging.
The next morning we were early astir exploring the town and sea-shore, after which we partook of a
substantial breakfast and started on our way to Ardbeg, distant four miles. The road mostly followed
the coast line, but frequently a turn brought. us almost to the water's edge. The shore is mostly
rocky and dangerous, in many places huge masses of rock rise from the surface of the sea, forming
tiny islets round and over which the swell rises and falls in impressive grandeur. Every now and then
as we d rove along, the scene assumed a new aspect; now we would come suddenly upon some little
picturesque bay fringed with fantastic and peculiar shaped rocks, or ascending a gentle hill some
The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom - Alfred
A very rare book, missing in almost all collections. Original
The bottles have lost their original labels (although on the one bottle there is a faint trace of the label, enough to make out
the brand) The black glass, similar to old Madeira bottles, and likely date from between the 1860's and the 1880's. The Army
and Navy Stores was a prestigious and famous firm in London, founded in 1872, that supplied all types of goods to senior
military officers, and especially to the regimental messes of the British armed forces, which were famous in this era for the
very high quality of their wines and spirits. This is wood, peat and a sort of tobacco quality, quite different from modern
whisky but also recognizably similar as well. It tastes so soft I thought the alcohol strength was around 35%, but measured
by hydrometer it's 40%, which means that it would have been bottled at probably 42-43% a century ago, the same as
modern whisky. A great experience to taste something like this, one of the oldest surviving whiskies.
Army and Navy Stores Whisky, believed to date from the
The cellar tags say "Mid 19th century Army and Navy old Liqueur
Whisky". These are some of the oldest whisky bottles ever found.
Laphroaig 1887, John Anderson bottling
Laphroaig 1899, Mackie & Co. bottling
Laphroaig 1903, Mackie & Co "Valley of Proig" distillery bottling
Rarest Scotch whisky, more than a century old: Highland Park Reserve 1902, bottled by Berry Bros
An incredible early bottling of one of the aristocrats of single malts
Very good condition, an extremely rare and early bottling, and quite extraordinary to
find a grouping like this.
By virtue both of the their age and their quality, these are arguably the most important
bottles of Highland Park in existence. In the period 1900 – 1940, Berry Bros were the
greatest wine merchant in the world, supplying not only the British Royal Family, but all
the crowned heads of Europe, and most heads of state as well. Winston Churchill was
a longstanding customer. Because of their success and their clientele, they had the
absolute pick of the barrels when it came to their own label bottlings like this, only the
very finest casks were selected, and the whiskies and cognacs bottled under their
name in this era are regarded as of absolutely incomparable quality.
Identical bottles from this same source were tested using radiocarbon dating
techniques at Oxford University, and were confirmed as dating from the era 1897-1925
(as precise as this test can be). Copies of all the relevant documentation will be
provided to purchasers of these bottles.
Only one bottle remaining from this cache!
bottle. No seal
on the stopper,
are in our
Blend Fine Old
I. Rare and very
inland view of green slopes and heather covered hills would reveal itself, which lent a happy contrast to the wild sea-girt shore.
Nearly all the way we had in sight the opposite coast of Kintyre, and. almost fancied we could distinguish the long coach road to
Tarbert which we had traversed the day before. journeying along we were continually reminded by the ruins of castles and
churches that we were on one of the most historic islands of Scotland, in the land of romance and the home of the " Lords of the
Isles," rendered classic by one of Sir Walter Scott's finest poems.
As we reached the top of a hill, a sudden view of beautiful Ardbeg, presented itself to view and recalled our minds from romantic
wanderings. The Ardbeg Distillery is situated on the south-east coast of the island, in a lonely spot on the very verge of the sea,
and its isolation tends to heighten a the romantic sense of its position. It was established in the year 1815, but long previous to
that date it was a noted haunt of smugglers. For many years the supervisors had been searching for this nest of illicit traffickers
without success; most of the band were known by sight, and endeavours had long been made to catch them when out in their~
boats. At length the spot where they carried on their nefarious practices was discovered, but the band was too strong for an open
attack; however, one day, when the party were absent with a cargo of whisky, a raid was made and the place destroyed after a
seizure of a large amount of the illicit spirit. As it was impossible to procure other vessels, and finding, their occupation gone, the
whole band was scattered, and most of them migrated to the Kintyre shores. The site of their operations was shortly after
occupied by the founders of Ardbeg Distillery who chose it on account of the water, the chief characteristics of which arc its
softness and purity; it is obtained from Lochs Arinambeast and Uigidale.
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