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The spectacular landscape of Glencoe was created by the explosion of a super-volcano some 450 million years ago, then further shaped during the last ice age by the slow yet unstoppable march of a glaciar. Today the Glen is a popular tourist spot, recognised the world over as the home of Scottish mountaineering, though it is perhaps even better known as a scene of great betrayal and bloodshed.
Following the Jacobite uprising of 1689, the Scottish government met with rebel chiefs to offer peace terms in return for their oath of fealty to the new King, William II. A full pardon would be given to those who swore before the 1st of January 1692 and word was sent to former King, James VII of Scotland to ask that men who remained loyal to him be allowed to take the oath. James gave his permission on the 12th of December, with word reaching Glengarry, chief of the MacDonald’s on the 23rd. For reasons best known to himself, however, Glengarry didn’t share this information until the 28th, meaning MacIain of Glencoe didn’t depart for Fort William to swear his loyalty until the 30th.
Upon his arrival, MacIain was advised that the Governor of Fort William wasn’t authorised to receive his oath and was sent instead to the local Magistrate at Inverary with a letter, signed by the Governor, which asked that his oath be accepted as delivered before the deadline. The Magistrate accepted MacIain’s oath on the 6th of January and he returned home to Glencoe, believing the issue to be resolved.
On the 12th of February 1692, two companies from the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot arrived in Glencoe, seeking ‘Free Quarter’. The people of Glencoe obliged, blissfully unaware that a terrible fate awaited them. In the night, armed soldiers began dragging men from their beds, tying their hands and shooting them in the street. To prevent escape, an additional force of 400 men were positioned at the North of the Glen near Kinlochleven, with a further 400 sweeping up from the south, instructed to burn every home and kill all who crossed their path.
Despite the murder of some 38 men, many made their escape, only to die from exposure in the surrounding mountains. Estimates range from an additional 40 to 100 souls who lost their lives in this manner.
Today, Glencoe is as empty a landscape as you will find. Barren yet beautiful, mysterious yet alluring, there is a lingering atmosphere that hangs in the air, hinting at the tragedy that once befell the people of the Glen.
The Glencoe blended malt is produced by the Ben Nevis distillery from a combination of different malts. Bottled at an impressive cask strength of 58%, it is available for the very affordable price of £40 a bottle.
Smell: Toffee, Exotic Spices, Caramel, Honey and Pepper.
Taste: Toffee and Caramel, Malt, Orange, Sea Salt and lots of Pepper.
Thoughts: This is a feisty, flavoursome malt and it’s priced very reasonably. Credit must also be given for the inclusion of the ‘8 year’ age statement, as this malt could easily have been released without it. There is definite youth in the spirit but it is not a disadvantage. In fact, this relatively young, somewhat raw blended malt rather well represents the rugged, natural beauty of the Glen itself. Perhaps not a dram for those who like them “smooth”, but there is a lot of flavour among that peppery spice. Something of a hidden gem, and an absolute steal at the price.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.