#11.2 Birthday in the Borderlands

Tripping in the South of Scotland to Annandale
(Day 2)


The second day in Dumfries & Galloway, driving from Portpatrick to the lovely Annandale distillery! 

(missed Day 1? Or go to Day 3)

The morning wasn’t too cold as we went to a nearby hotel for a big breakfast. We went for a short walk on the cliff around Portpatrick, the view of the village was pretty spectacular, but the clouds prevented us to spot Ireland…hopefully next time!

Quiet, cloudy morning in Portpatrick.

First stop in the morning, Newton Stewart. It looked as a nice, quiet village. Here we met up with Tom, a Gianluigi’s former colleague and his family for coffee and cake. It was great catching up with him, since Gianluigi and Tom hadn’t met in person since March 2020, despite spending a big chunk of the pandemic working together building a Covid model for Scotland.

The road between Newton Stewart and Annan was a quite different landscape compared to others in Scotland. A rug of intense green rolling hills, punctuated by cattle and sheep quietly grazing. We stopped by a smokehouse just past Creetown, on the main road, to get some of their delicious goodies. Past Dumfries, instead keeping on the main road, we drove straight south to Caerlaverock Castle. The visitor centre and the castle were closed, but it was possible to park nearby and, thanks to a sunny day, take a walk in the park. The castle looks like a proper medieval fort, including a catapult “parked” in front of it as a reminder of those walls purpose. As we will learn from the Wikipedia page, this has been under siege many times, until it was abandoned in 1640.

Beautiful castle behind an even more beautiful catapult!

It took just a short half-hour drive to arrive to Annandale from the castle. As we left the car in the wide parking lot, we could admire the awesome restorations of the distillery buildings. It sits in a nice spot as well, close to a stream and surrounded by fields and woods, almost like a postcard! We checked-in at the visitor centre’s shop (where we got our very first whisky lanyard!) and while waiting for the tour to start, we had a coffee at the Maltings, their cafè.

Checking in at Annandale.

Other than the basic tour there are other three options available, which is possible to enquire about from the website: one focused on the buildings restoration, one about the new owners journey and project, and a technical one about whisky production. Gianluigi enquired about the latter, but that week the person in charge was on annual leave, so he chose the basic tour (prices of the alternative ones are not specified on the website).

Our guide led us to the room where the tour started. While she was explaining the history of the distillery, which dates back to 1836, she gave us a first dram of a blended scotch whisky prototype (not on sale yet), a blend of North British grain whisky with their peated expression (Man O’Sword), diluted at 40%: despite the thin mouthfeel, not bad at all! The distillery was bought by the Walker family in 1893 as a source of peated single malt for their blends: their kiln used peat from local bogs, making it a pretty unique malt. Compared to other peated malts, it was also easier to transport it to Kilmarnock. The distillery was closed and dismantled in 1924, and prior to their acquisition by David Thomson and Teresa Church in the late 2000s, it was abandoned. When the renovation happened, all the equipment was new, making it another (almost) 200 years old “new distillery”, similarly to Bladnoch. In the middle of the courtyard we could admire the old stillhouse building’s base, with the two circular structures that used to host the stills.

A piece of whisky history.

The historical ties of these distillery don’t end here, as they decided to name their single malts after two very important characters tied with the local and Scottish history: while their unpeated whisky is named “Man O’Words” in honor of Robert Burns, their peated one is the “Man O’Sword”, after Robert The Bruce (and the peat doesn’t come from the area anymore, but it’s sourced by the Simpson maltsters).

As we moved to the production area, we spotted the similarities with other distilleries influenced by the late Dr Jim Swan (Lindores Abbey). In particular, they have a mashtun closed by a copper lid, and three stills: one wash still and two twins, slightly smaller, spirit stills.

All in one room: mashtun, washbacks and…

In the filling room, a poster of Doddie Wair, which filled their first peated cask. The dunnage warehouse is on two levels, and here is where we had a wee taste of their products (well, not Gianluigi as he was driving). We tasted their peated and unpeated Rascally Liquor (newmake spirit bottled at 63.5%), and their young Man O’Words and Man O’Sword from bourbon casks (unchillfiltered, natural color and cask strength). Back in the shop, we realised that all their bottling were £80-85 or over, depending on the cask type, so we opted for a tasting set of 6x5cl drams: peated and unpeated single malts in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and STR casks, a good compromise (we still have to taste them however…). For what we could taste on that day (but also in another Kask Whisky tasting, when we had a dram of their sherry cask matured Man O’Words… and a real sherry cask, not a seasoned one) the whisky is very promising, and we are excited to see what is in their plans in the years to come!

Dunnage warehouses.

As we left the distillery Teresa wasn’t aware of the next stop, and she was really clueless until we crossed the border with (cracks in the sky noise) England!!! The distillery for the next day was, of course, the Lakes distillery, but Gianluigi decided to spend the night in a town on the coast, Workington. We stayed in the very clean and tidy Hall Park Hotel, which has a bar as well, so before dinner we could watch the second half of the England-Ireland 6 Nations game from a comfy couch in our room with a pint! Sublime!

So another distillery in the sack, this time the beauty of Annandale really made the difference. We will definitely go back for another tour (hopefully the technical one), maybe in a few years when more expressions of this whisky will be available.

Annandale Distillery Tour and Tasting

Price: £20.00 pp (February 2022…But there was a discount at the time, we paid £10pp)

Tasting: Blended scotch (a blend of North British grain and their peated single malt, 40%), Rascal spirit (new make), Man O’Word & Man O’Sword (unpeated and peated, NC, NCF, CS)…and wee glass and laynard to take home

Target: everyone

Value for money: Good

Highlights: The beautiful site

Distillery Exclusive: Man O’Words and Man O’Sword single cask bottle your own vintage 2015 (CS, NCF, NC, ~£60 for a 375ml bottle)

Things we did not like: Feeling like broken records, but the bottling prices were a bit steep again

Link: https://annandaledistillery.com/