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Teaninich distillery was founded in 1817 by Captain Hugh Munro, who had inherited the family estate following the passing of his father in 1788. Munro was a popular man, loved by his tenants for his desire to improve the estate to the benefit of all, even when neighbouring landowners were ordering vast and often brutal clearances of their land.
When Great Britain went to war with Revolutionary France in 1792, Munro put his duties as Laird to one side so that he might join the 78th Highlanders and play his part in the conflict. As a result, his engagement to Jane, daughter of General Sir Hector Munro of Novar was put on hold.
Whilst on duty, Hugh was dreadfully injured during a firefight in the city of Nijmegen. A musket ball struck him in the eye, passing through his nose and removing the other eye on the way out. Blinded for life, Hugh was discharged and returned home to seek comfort in the arms of his beloved Jane only to be told that her Father no longer consented to their union, due to the wounded man’s newly acquired disability.
The couple were distraught and planned to elope but in the end, Jane wouldn’t go against her Father’s wishes and the wedding was cancelled. Jane eventually married another but seemingly never lost her love for Hugh Munro. When she later became terminally ill, she expressed a desire to see him one last time and made for the local parish church where she knew he worshipped. When the blind man entered the church, Jane fainted and had to be carried home. Tragically she never recovered and passed away a few days later.
Hugh meanwhile seemed determined to combat his tragic circumstances by living life to the full, supervising the renovation of the family home and playing host to many a social event. He became a talented musician and enjoyed riding his horse at full gallop – a bold pastime for a man with no eyesight.
Perhaps owing to his own heartbreaking encounter with discrimination, Hugh became ever more determined to look after the interests of his tenants and with that in mind, he commissioned the building of a distillery, so that there would always be a reliable buyer for any excess barley grown on his land.
Teaninich distillery opened in 1817 and Munro was soon waging a private war against the illicit distillers in his area. The fight would eventually lead him to tell a parliamentary commission in 1821 that none of the 20 pubs in the royal burgh of Tain had bought whisky from a legal distillery in over a year. His speech contributed to the eventual creation in 1823 of the now infamous Excise Act and therefore, indirectly brought about the eventual end of the smuggling trade.
Hugh sold the family estate, complete with distillery, to his brother Lieutenant-General John Munro in 1831 and lived out the rest of his days in relative comfort at Coul Cottage near Alness. He passed away, unmarried, on the 11th of May 1846.
The younger of the Munro brothers had little interest in running the distillery himself, spending most of his time in India instead. As a result, his family leased out Teaninich for decades before it was eventually purchased in 1904 by Robert Innes Cameron. Following Cameron’s death in 1933, the distillery was bought by the Scottish Malt Distillers Company Limited, a forerunner of Diageo, who retain ownership to this day.
Official bottlings of Teaninich are rare, with a solitary 10 year old expression appearing as part of Diageo’s Flora & Fauna series. Fortunately however, this interesting single malt can occasionally be found among the releases of indie bottlers and here, working with Berry Brothers & Rudd of London, the Good Spirits Co. have unleashed a 10 year old version, bottled at full cask strength for the sum of £60.
Smell: Fruity at first, with Apples, Pears and Orange. Lots of Butterscotch and Vanilla Fudge with a Charred Oak note and some Chilli Spice.
Taste: Butterscotch again, Vanilla and Oak Spice – Pepper, Paprika and a pinch of fiery Chilli Powder, water brings back the Green Fruits from the nose.
Thoughts: For £60 you get a whisky that seems mature beyond its 10 years. A spicy cask influence warms things up without ever overpowering the spirit character. Great stuff.
The Good Spirits Co is my local specialist retailer and I’ve been following their bottlings for a while now. Where previous releases have included some big hitters like Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain however, their more recent offerings have come from lesser known distilleries. This is a trend which is becoming common in the indie bottling scene. As the popularity of single malt continues to soar, there is quite simply less of it to go around and casks from showstopper distilleries have become harder and harder to find.
Fans of independent bottlers can view this situation in one of two ways. They can feel sorry for themselves and lament ‘the good old days’, or they can view it as an opportunity to try out some drams they would never have considered before. If this bottling proves anything, it is that the reputation of a distillery, or lack thereof, does not dictate the quality of the dram. So do yourself a favour and try out something new. Your new favourite dram could be one you’ve never heard of.
The Good Spirits Co Teaninich can be bought here.
For more on Teaninich Distillery.
For more on the Good Spirits Co.