“The first legal distillery on the Outer Hebrides”; “the first whisky produced there in 200 years” - it's an important clarification to make. The remote, windswept islands off Scotland’s west coast seem like the perfect environment for whisky production, so it’s difficult to believe that nobody was distilling the odd drop for their own consumption even despite the taxation laws that came into force in 1824. But in any case, it took until 2007 for anyone to take out a licence on the island of Lewis, the largest of Scotland’s Western Isles.
Hot on the heels of Kilchoman, which has re-defined the market for youthful whisky with an extensive series of malts at five years or younger, Abhainn Dearg have taken a different tack. They whetted the interest of whisky drinkers with a limited release of new-make aged for just a few months, then their first ‘legal’ whisky at 3 years of age was released in a batch of only 2011 500ml bottles. Since then, they have retreated from the marketplace, and do not intend to release anything else until a 10-year-old is ready in 2018.
Those who were lucky enough to try this first release discovered a refreshingly unique island-style malt, laden with aromas of wood smoke, pine resin, fresh tangy sea salt and muscular barley.