My Scottish tour 2017 begins!
Its 22:30 and im feeling weary. Its been a long & busy week with little sleep, but theres be plenty of fun also. Ive been driving for hours and consult the whisky map to see whats close to me. Auchentoshan is a ‘must do’ but its still two hours drive away. Then i see Annandale and hey, its only 15 minutes away.
I soon turn off the long yet often picturesque M6 ive been on for hours, and head for Annandale distillery in the village of Annan. The gates to the distillery car park are of course by now closed but fortunately there is a secluded, public car park only a few minutes further up the road where i park up for the night. I bed down with a glass of Chilean Merlot [that had been in the van since last season] whilst brushing up on some facts about the distillery i shall visit in the morning.
Past history of the Annandale distillery
One of the lowest of the Lowlands distilleries [only beaten by Bladnoch I believe], Annandale was originally built in 1830 by former excise officer George Donald, who ran it with considerable success up until 1883.
After George died, John Sykes Gardener took over the distillery with further success. Gardener was a spirits merchant from Liverpool but links between Annan and Liverpool were not uncommon given their respective ports were in close proximity to each other for trading. This is likely to explain why Gardener became so closely involved.
Such was the success of the Annandale distillery first from George Donald & then Gardener, that John Walker & Sons paid a visit to the distillery to see what all the fuss was about. They were suitably impressed, enough to buy the distillery from Gardener.
John Walker stopped using the distillery in 1918 and officially closed it [according to the distillery] in 1924. It was then closed [as a distillery] for 90 years. Sometime during this period the site was acquired by the Robinson family, famous for cereals and [barley] drinks. They used the site as a porridge plant for many years but the details and timeline are sketchy.
MMR Group chairman, Professor David Thompson acquired the dilapidated old distillery/farm in 2007. After a seven year, £10.5 million restoration project that also involved significant collaboration with skilled archaeologists from the University of Reading, by 2014 Annandale was making barley spirit once more.
Annandale is currently maturing two signature expressions, Man o’Words & Man o’Sword – a US oak & a peated version respectively. The whisky wont be available until 2018, but [bourbon] casks are available for purchase in the meantime.
Their inaugural cask went on sale for £1 million in 2015 and cask #8 for 888k [The Scotsman, 20/02/15], with different cask numbers attracting different prices. Cask #47 for example is on offer for a mere £300k [thecuttingspirit.com]. No one has yet bought the inaugural cask, but its cunning exposure regardless.
1830: Built by former exciseman George Donald.
1883: Taken over by John Sykes Gardener after the death of George.
1896: Bought by John Walker & Sons. for use in their Johnnie Walker brands.
1900’s: The site was used by Robinsons to make porridge
2007: Bring in husband & wife team David Thompson and Teresa Church to reinstate Annandale back to its former glory and beyond.
2014: Annandale fill their inaugural cask.
Further reading & watching: