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Scotch Whisky
The Water of Life
Irish Whiskey
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 drove 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 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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