Whisky distillery launched on Isle of Raasay

Iain and Alasdair fill the first cask
Credit: Scott Mooney. Iain and Alasdair fill the first cask

Craft Whisky makers R&B Distillers have opened the first LEGAL whisky distillery on the Isle of Raasay.

Opening ceremony of isle of Raasay Distillery picture of bagpipe procession
Opening ceremony of Isle of Raasay Distillery Credit: Scott Mooney

THE distillery has been constructed at the site of a former Victorian hotel, Borodale House, on the tiny island of Raasay, just 14 miles long and three miles across. It has a population of 120 people and is reached by a ferry from Skye.

The first Raasay Scotch, under the guidance of distiller Iain Robertson, will be ready to drink from 2020.

Robertson, a graduate of Heriot-Watt University’s Brewing and Distilling School in Edinburgh, was appointed as distiller in July this year.

In the past, whisky was made illegally using illicit stills as it was in other parts of Scotland.

“Raasay is an ideal place for making whisky. It has fertile soils for growing barley and an abundance of water, or uisge in Scots Gaelic, provide perfect conditions for making ‘uisge beatha’, the water of life: whisky, said visitor experience manager Iain Hector-Ross.

Nestling into the magnificent volcanic plug Dùn Caan, with stunning views of the Cuillin mountain range on Skye, the Isle of Raasay Distillery will possess some of the finest views of any distillery.

The site also has bat boxes and a “bat hotel”, providing a nesting space for the mammals in the roof of the distillery.

Isle of Raasay Distillery-credit-Scott-Mooney
Isle of Raasay Distillery-credit-Scott-Mooney

These are required to accommodate the UK’s most north-westerly population of brown long-eared bats, which were found in the vacant hotel during an environmental impact study.

The distillery will be open to the public next month. Visitors will be able to take a tour and learn about the unusual geology that influences the flavour of Raasay Scotch; spot the resident bat population in the ‘Bat Hotel’ and visit the Celtic Well that provides water to the distillery.

Whisky lovers will also be able to  sign up for membership to R&B Distillers’ whisky clubs – 10 year membership to Na Tùsairean Club or  take a ‘Taster Membership’ – which offers one night’s stay per year of membership in the premium accommodation in the beautifully restored Borodale House.

R&B stands for Raasay and Borders. Co-founder Alasdair Day’s great grandfather, Allan MacDonald, was from the Hebrides while his other great grandfather, Richard Day, was a master-blender in the Borders in the early 19th Century.

Whisky writer Dave Broom and Alasdair-Day with-the-first-cask.
Whisky writer Dave Broom and Alasdair-Day with-the-first-cask. credit-Scott-Mooney