Whiskies with a spooky story to enjoy this Halloween
October can mean only one thing – the count down to Halloween! It’s officially the month when we enjoy sharing scary stories and celebrating all things spooky. Luckily here in Scotland, we have plenty of bone-chilling tales to scare even the strongest stomached among us. The Scotch whisky industry is especially known for having a haunted tale or two, we even use the term “ghost distilleries” to describe a distillery that’s closed and no longer in operation… spooky we know! Thankfully, the distilleries for our “whiskies of the month” are not ghost distilleries, and are still going strong, but they do have some spooky stories to share with us…
Lindores Abbey Friar John Cor 11
Nestled in the west of Dundee you will find the spirit of the ‘white lady’, haunting Claypotts Castle. The land on which the medieval castle is built was owned by Lindores Abbey in the 1500’s and was rented to the Strachan family for just £11 and twelve cockerels.
There is much debate over who the ‘white lady’ is, however the most common theory is that she is the ghost of Marion Ogilvy. In the 16th century, Marion was the mistress of Cardinal Beaton. She is said to have waited every night for him, when on the 29th May, 1546, she would wait in vein, as he was murdered in St. Andrews.
Every year on the 29th of May, it is said you can see the spirit of the ‘white lady’ standing in the upper window of the castle, waving her white handkerchief, waiting for her lover to come back to her.
Home to a ghostly hellhound that has apparently tormented the people of Tomatin for centuries, this whisky certainly fits the bill for a perfect Halloween tipple. There is even a special smokey version of Tomatin named after the beast. In particular, the 2006 limited edition Cù Bòcan comes in a spooky black bottle with a fiery, spectral hound’s head on the label.
They say that when one of the distillery workers reached out to touch the hound’s dark fur one night, it disappeared into the mist. The opposite can be said of this whisky – it will linger on your palate and in your memory for quite some time!
The Balvenie Caribbean Rum Cask 14yo
The Balvenie is one of only a few distilleries that maintains the traditional process of malting barley in their large farmyard warehouse, built in the 1920’s. Part of this old warehouse is built from the bricks of the long-ruined Balvenie Castle (from where the distillery takes its name). Balvenie Castle was believed to be haunted and the ghost of the Green Lady followed the bricks to the distillery.
The barley loft is a peaceful place, almost silent, with only the sound of the maltmen turning the barley, except from the occasional footsteps, belonging to the Green Lady. Robbie, a maltman at Balvenie for over 40 years, has heard the Green Lady for many years and refuses to turn his back on the door as he turns the barely, out of fear that she will sneak up behind him and tap him on the shoulder. He has also taken to loudly playing rock music to drown out the sound of her footsteps!
Glen Scotia 15yo
The region of Campbeltown also has a haunting or two and the Glen Scotia distillery has one very specific spectre that haunts them. This is the story of Duncan MacCallum who died in “mysterious circumstances” close to the distillery..
On the night before Christmas Eve in 1930, local industrialist and distillery owner Duncan drowned himself in Crosshill Loch after a dodgy business deal which lost him a fortune. To this day the ghost of Duncan MacCallum remains at the distillery and he will allegedly make his presence known to visiting contractors to ensure no more business deals go badly for the distillery!
Ready for some devilish skullduggery? Here’s a spooky tale from the Isle of Islay, home to Smokehead. If you’ve ever been to the town of Bowmore, you will have spotted the round church at the top of the town. It was purposely built this way – if the devil ever came to visit there would be no corners to hide. Legend has it, this is exactly what happened on a dark winter’s evening in 1837. The local congregation chased the devil from the church to Bowmore distillery. They bolted the gates and locked the doors. Alas, further searching proved fruitless and the devil had vanished.
That same night a small paddle steamer was loaded with casks of Bowmore whisky and headed for the mainland. The devil was never found, but it was believed he hid himself in a cask to escape the angry locals.
The Headless Horseman of Bowmore
Islay is undoubtedly the home of good spirits (pun intended) and Bowmore Distillery has a spooky story all of its own. The story goes that a crofter named Lachlan Bàn was on his way home one stormy night when he spotted a silhouette of a headless horseman galloping away from his house. Spooked, Lachlan was then greeted by wide open doors, a bottle of Bowmore on the floor, and the fire completely out. To make matters worse he also noticed that a rather large dram was missing too.
“What kind of creature would leave an opened bottle of whisky? Surely it’s a sign of severe misfortune”, thought Lachlan, throwing the bottle out immediately and locking the door behind him. Since that night, Lachlan Ban’s brother informed him that it was he who had been waiting at Lachlan’s house, and who had drunk one dram of whisky from the Bowmore bottle, however Lachlan was too embarrassed to tell anyone that his sighting wasn’t a real apparition, so the ‘ghost story’ lived on.
A true Ileach (that’s an Islay resident to you and me) will only serve a dram from an unopened bottle and will throw the cork in the fire, just in case the headless horseman returns to join them!
All these whiskies are available at the Amber bar and at the McIntyre bar at the end of your tour. We hope you have a spooky Halloween and as always, Slàinte Mhath!