Edradour distillery was founded in 1837 by a group of local farmers led by Mungo Stewart, who leased the land from the Duke of Atholl. By 1855 the distillery was under the control of John Mackintosh who passed it on to his nephew Peter upon his death. Peter, hindered by bad health and an industry-wide downturn sold in 1933 to Yorkshireman William Whiteley.
Owner of J.G. Turney & Son, Whiteley capitalised on the opportunities prohibition in the US offered to Scotch exporters, employing Frank Costello, ‘Capo dei capi’ (boss of bosses) and inspiration for the Godfather series, as his ‘U.S. Sales Consultant’. When Whiteley retired in 1938, his company, including Edradour, was acquired by Irving Haim, right hand man to Costello.
When Haim passed away, the distillery was purchased by Pernod Ricard who released its first commercially available single malt in 1986. In 2002, Pernod sold to Andrew Symington of independent bottler Signatory Vintage. Within a year, he had begun to produce a heavily peated spirit, to be bottled as a single malt named ‘Ballechin’.
The new malt was named after a distillery which once operated on the nearby Ballechin estate. Founded around 1810, the distillery ceased production in 1927, though remarkably some of the buildings are still standing today. The estate on which it stood was also home to the infamous Ballechin House, referred to at the time, as the most haunted house in Scotland.
The house was built in 1806 by the Stuart family and inherited by one Robert Stuart in 1834. Robert had been away since 1825 however, seeking his fortune with the East India Company from the age of just 19. He returned to the house a Major in 1850 but was shunned by locals and viewed as something of an oddball for his beliefs in Reincarnation and Transmigration of the soul, picked up through a quarter of a century in residence in India.
More comfortable in the company of his dogs than people, Stuart was often heard to say that his spirit would inhabit the body of his favourite Spaniel upon the event of his passing. The only human he seemed to have a bond with was a young housekeeper by the name of Sarah, with whom he was said to share his bed. When Sarah passed away at the unusually young age of just 27, Robert almost completely withdrew from public life, only leaving the house to walk the grounds with his 14 dogs in tow. The Major passed away in 1874, leaving the estate to his nephew, a God fearing catholic named John.
John feared his peculiar uncle in life and was paranoid that his soul would somehow possess one of the dogs. In a grisly and cowardly act, the young Stuart had each of the animals shot, a crime said to have left the disembodied spirit of Major Robert Stuart wandering the house in misery forever more.
By 1876, weird occurrences began to plague the inhabitants of the house. When John’s wife was cleaning in the old Major’s study she noticed a distinct smell of dog and reached to open a window, only to feel something brush against her leg. Finding nothing there she quickly left and refused to enter the study again. Later she would encounter disembodied voices in the night and knocking on the walls. She heard dogs growling and yelping and even, at one point, the sound of gunfire.
A Jesuit priest by the name of Father Hyden came to stay at the house for a time and complained that a dog clawed incessantly at his door in the middle of the night. The following evening he was awoken by a bloodcurdling scream, the source of which he was unable to determine.
In 1895, John himself was conducting business in the study when he was startled by three loud bangs, as though some force were trying to gain entry. A matter of days later he was dead, killed in an apparent hit and run accident in London.
The next Stuart family to move into the house lasted just 11 weeks before leaving, never to return. During that time they experienced banging noises throughout the house and the sound of dogs tearing through the corridors. The spectre of a young woman dressed in a silk gown was seen walking the halls in darkness, apparently searching for something, or someone. The final straw however came when the youngest member of the family woke the entire household with her screams after being terrified by the sound of shuffling footsteps circling her bed.
Soon the family had abandoned the house and left it to ruin. By 1932 it was found to be uninhabitable and in 1963 the remains were completely demolished after a mysterious fire left only the servants quarters standing. Little of the building remains today, though its name lives on, not least through the peated single malt of neighbouring Edradour distillery.
The Ballechin spirit is produced using barley peated to a level no less than 50ppm and is matured in a combination of bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks. Bottled un-chill filtered at 46%, it retails for around £45.
Smell: Peat smoke & charcoal. Ash. Pepper. Vanilla and cereal. Apple, toffee and orange. Raisins.
Taste: Orange and milk chocolate. Apple and oak. Pepper. Cinnamon. Grassy smoke and liquorice.
Value for Money: Tastes good, carries a nice reliable age statement and holds some weight thanks to the avoidance of chill filtering. A good solid purchase.
Score: 44 / 50
Edradour is a charming little distillery that is more than capable of producing some very fine spirit – and Ballechin is a good example. The relatively high PPM count means the peat plays a big role in the character of the spirit whilst the inclusion of those sherry casks bring a richness and add new dimensions of flavour. A satisfyingly smoky dram, ideal for the chilly nights of late October.
For more on Edradour, click here.
For more on Ballechin House, click here.
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