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There has been a pub at 154 Hope Street, Glasgow since 1867. Founded by one John Hill, it was later taken over by William McCall in 1886. Soon coming to be known as ‘McCalls’, the bar was run by William’s family right up until the early 1960s when it was taken over by Tennent’s Caledonian Breweries. Under their ownership, the bar was modernised with the addition of an elevated lounge to the rear.
In 1981, it was renamed The Pot Still by the father and son team of John and Paul Waterstone, who filled their gantry with some 300 bottles. Further change came in the early 1990s when the bar was taken over by Ken Storrie, who continued the theme and increased the bottle count to 500. In 2003, Storrie hired Frank Murphy as his new bar manager and when the owner sadly passed away, it was Frank and sister Geraldine who stepped in to ensure the pub would go on.
Today the Pot Still is a must-see for whisky fans visiting Scotland’s largest city. The gantry is home to more than 700 whiskies, sourced from all across the world, with staff among the most helpful and knowledgeable pourers in the business. To celebrate 7 years of Murphy ownership (no relation by the way!), the bar released a single cask bottling of a peated single malt in 2018 which just happened to come from one of the countries newest distilleries…
The original Annandale was founded in 1830 by former Elgin-based excise officer George Donald. Unusually for a lowland distillery, the site was known for producing a peated spirit, which would eventually attract the attention of John Walker & Sons. Walker’s bought the distillery in 1896. Over the next two decades, however, the distillery fell out of favour and by 1919 it lay abandoned. Two years later it was completely dismantled and the buildings left to decay.
In 2007, what remained of the site was bought by husband and wife team David Thomson and Teresa Church, who learned of its intriguing history through Brian Townsend’s excellent ‘Scotch Missed’ book. 7 years and £10.5 million later the buildings had been completely restored and a new distillery installed, as per the instructions of the late Dr Jim Swan. Production began in 2014 with the first bottlings of both peated and unpeated spirit coming online early last year.
During a visit to the distillery last October, I found a charming site that looked almost untouched from the days of its creation. A truly remarkable restoration job has been done on the place and the single malt I was able to taste at the time suggested that there is a lot to come from this new lowland whisky. Alas, the scarcity of the product has led to a very high price point thus far. Fortunate then, that just a few months later, my local whisky bar should release its own single cask version for just £50 a bottle.
Smell: Lively nose! Vanilla Cream, Malt, Buttery Pastry, Liquorice, Pepper, Charcoal and a light blanket of Acrid Smoke.
Taste: Vanilla, Biscuit, lots of Pepper, Caramel, Fudge… the Smoke starts softly but gradually builds to leave behind a long, smoky finish.
Value for Money: An official bottling of Annandale’s peated single malt brand ‘Man O’ Sword’ would set you back £126 at present. This single cask from the Pot Still meanwhile, was £50. What else is there to say?
A good malt at just three years old suggests that Annandale could have the potential for real greatness in the future. Until the price of official bottlings comes down a little, however, the average whisky drinker may have to seek out indie offerings like this one in order to try it out. Fortunately, the Pot Still has it covered, at least until their 260 bottles sell out. Buy it here.
For more on Annandale.
For more on the Pot Still.