The Isle of Raasay and the Scottish Borders may lie at either extreme of the Scottish geographical landscape, but they are soon to be inextricably linked by Scotland’s national drink, thanks to one of the country’s newest distillers – R&B.
R&B Distillers was founded by Alasdair Day, who’s heritage hails from both regions – one great-grandfathers, Allan MacDonald, came from the Hebridean island, while another, Richard Day, was a master blender a Coldstream in the Border during the early 19th century. Since 2009, Alasdair has kept the family’s whisky flame alive through his grandfather’s award winner Borders Whisky, The Tweeddale. Now though, the company is looking to build a distillery in both its Highland and Lowland heartlands.
The Scottish Borders hasn’t had an operating whisky distillery since 1837 (that’s the same year Queen Victoria came to the throne, fact fans!), with Raasay’s distilling history primarily of an illicit nature, which gives the company the opportunity to create a profile for whisky in each region.
Lying just off the west coast of the Isle of Skye, Raasay is home to just 120 residents. R&B plans to convert the Victorian Borodale House into a distillery, visitor centre and accommodation, which is expected to generate jobs for 11 of the island’s residents. After much pre-planning, permission was granted by Highland Council in February 2016, with opening expected in January 2017. Once it starts operation, the first 100 casks of spirit have been reserved for members of R&B’s Na Tùsairean club (from the Gaelic for ‘The Pioneers’). The lucky 100 will receive one bottle a year for 10 years, along with miniatures and exclusive rights to stay at the distillery.
Down in the Borders, the company did things slightly differently, asking the Scottish public to select their preferred location for the company’s second distillery. The successful location was Peebles, which secured 1352 votes – more than all the other locations combined, with second place Tweed Valley only accumulating 207 votes. It’s thought the building of the Borders distillery will only being once the Raasay Distillery has progressed further. However, the company might want to get its skates on, as a number of other distillers have joined the race to open the first distillery in the region, with Mossburn and The Three Stills Company leading the charge to bring distilling back to Southern Scotland.
Whilst we wait for both distilleries to starting operating – along with the three years we’ll have to wait until any whisky has sufficiently matured – the company is teasing us two preview whiskies. And you can come back later this week to find out what I thought of them.