A community led distillery with an immense respect for the place called home. Based in a converted farm steading, it’s not about disrupting the landscape but as much part of the landscape as the trees that surround the farm and it will stay that way. Dunkeld is but a wee drive from where I live in Perth, I couldn’t let this go un-noticed eh? So I chatted to them and drew my own conclusions and – history.
A wee bit of whisky history; DUNKELD DISTILLERY A distillery in Dunkeld, a small town and seat of a catholic bishopric beside the River Tay in Perthshire. Perthshire had a remarkably large number of ‘legal’ distilleries in an era when illicit distilling was rampant may be attributable in part to the Customs and Excise officers in the region being very efficient but also to the county’s landowners pushing any would be distillers to go legal, so as to avoid problems for themselves. Dunkeld Distillery was located in Atholl Street, which is the main street, with no burns or other water sources nearby. Perhaps it had water piped from the River Tay or took its’ water from a now lost stream, who knows? The distillery operated briefly twice over 12 years, first under James Duncan and Co. from 1825-26, then under Charles Douglas and Co. from 1834-37. Then … Birnam Distillery (also known as Dunkeld) stood beside what was then the main road between Perth and Inverness – the A9, which now bypasses the town of Birnam. To the east of the old site is the Inchewan Burn, which flows eventually into the Tay. Water for the distillery would have been drawn from the burn via a lade. After tracing as much info as I could, some may feel this is a wee bit confusing.
Battle of Dunkeld – 17th century Scotland, at a time when King William was yet to wholly solidify his position on the British throne and on the back of a significant Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie. The Jacobites began an assault on the eastern end of the town. The defenders, not able to effectively hold such an open space, fired on the attackers and pulled back across the Market Cross to a barricade at the end of the street called Scots Raw, setting fire to houses as they withdrew. The Stewarts of Appin attacked the Cameronians that were holding the cathedral. Along the riverbank, the Stewarts stormed a row of houses and used them as fighting positions against the cathedral. The Jacobites were pressing in hard and the Cameronians, who were left holding only the cathedral, Dunkeld House, and a few houses, were running low on ammunition, and lead was stripped from roofs and melted down for musket balls. After four hours of fighting the battle had reached a stalemate.
The Jacobite casualties at the battle of Dunkeld were between 150-300 men killed with the same number wounded while the Cameronians (government) lost around 50 men killed and many more wounded. Only three houses survived the battle, with the rest of the town destroyed by fire. Lieutenant-Colonel William Cleland was later laid to rest in Dunkeld Cathedral. The Jacobites withdrew back to Blair Castle and the army soon dispersed to gather in the harvest.
I chatted to Phillip the Founder; “Whisky can be long in the making but even longer in the reawakening. After an absence of over 200 years, whisky making will be brought back to Dunkeld Distillery. With the revival led by myself and fuelled by community spirit, Philip, fuelled by community spirit, guided by micro provenance and inspired by its’ beautiful Highland Perthshire surroundings, exciting times lay ahead and more history awaits”.
It would be good would it not, to engineer that the first release from this new distillery could be called Jacobite, or have some relevance to the battle. PAUL; we will keep you posted of events at Dunkeld. November 2021.