Dedication and passion are words readily overused with regards to the whisky industry as a whole but used appropriately and duly with regards to the Annandale distillery.
My tour guide, Carolyn was born in the local area of Annan but had no Idea of the existence of the old distillery until very recently. Neither did now-owner David Thompson who was also born in the Galloway area. Given the distillery had been closed for 90 years, thats plenty of time over three generations for the past to fade. Occasionally, men who worked on the then farm or played on the derelict site will visit the newly opened distillery and reminisce.
David Thompson & Teresa Church’s commitment to the restoration project of Annandale has been immense. The distillery was originally built from the local red sandstone that was widely used for housing in the local vaccinty as well as nearby Glasgow and possibly some of the brown buildings in New York. The quarry where the stone had originally come from had since closed. With the need for more building blocks, through sheer determination & heart to restore & modernise the distillery using the same local stone, D&T sourced two & a half tonnes from an old theatre in Glasgow that was knocked down. Every stone was officially verified as genuine Annan red sandstone before use – a further sign of their commitment to doing things right. There appear to have been no shortcuts in this project.
Annandale require 15 tonnes of grain every week, 50/50 peated/non peated. The peated barley has a ppm of 45.
The de-stoner. The lighter barley is blown up in the air whilst the heavier objects (mainly stones & occasional mobile phones – really!), are caught in a net to be separated – you learn something new every time you visit a distillery.
Their Porteus Mill is from the former Caperdonich distillery.
Malcolm Reny is the man responsible for introducing David to whisky. The layout and function of the still house is said to be Malcolm’s vision.
The main building houses 6 Douglas Fir washbacks, all fitted with manual switcher blades to scrape the foam off the top, so making their whisky vegan – much like the cafes delicious veggie haggis without the cheese [highly recommended].
8000 litres of low wines are divided into the two spirits stills. This increases the copper contact as do the reflux bowls between the pot and the neck [SEE FURTHER DOWN]. Theres even a separate spirit safe for the low wines [RIGHT}
The cut is between 70-74, reduced to 46% bottling strength.
Annandale as a small distillery can produce a maximum of 9600 litres of spirit in one week. Thats around 48x200ltr bourbon casks.
Their two warehouses with a capacity of 2000 casks are already full. Whilst another is currently being built, their spirit is presently being matured off site – only for the short term.
They use first-fill casks from Buffalo Trace and second-refill casks from Early Times – all bourbon.
To the juice, ‘Rascally Liquor’ – a reference to the character Tam o Shanter in a Robert burns poem that describes the local liquor. Thoughtful & clever.
- Annandale spirit ‘Man o’Words’  Ob. 63.5%
A tribute to Robert burns
N: Clean without being astringent and fruity with melons & pears.
T: Very direct with a little fizzy heat. Water doesn’t touch it at all.
F: Coppery>metally. Full-on until the last.
C: Focused, neutral spirit with three definable stages – not unlike Annandales past.
- Annandale spirit ‘Man o’Swords’  Ob. 63.5%
A peaty tribute to Robert the Bruce
N: That solid 45ppm peat coupled with the fruity spirit work very well – an ideal marriage.
T: Same fizz as the first but here the spirit & peat provide more cohesion (though still equally autonomous), with some mouthfeel developing already. Theres a longer travel too
F: A longer finish too, the peat bringing out the barley more than the non-peated spirit.
C: This is so ready for oak, almost begging. Appears much ‘more’ than the non-peated version. Exciting!
So much attention to detail
When you visit Annandale, admire all the doors [even the toilet ones], the cake display in the cafe, the barley metal work, the woodwork, the front entrance gate, the flip-top bins made from old casks, the visitors centre car park infrastructure, even the choice of independent whiskies sold in shop. Not your run-of-the-mill ‘easy pleasers’, no – obscure/choice, single cask (DL mainly) bottlings from Inchgower, Ben Nevis, Fettercairn and Auchentoshan – where I’m off too next.