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The Spirits of Scottish Distilleries

distillery | halloween

October 31, 2022

All the legends about goblins, ghouls and fairies roaming the distilleries in Scotland

Everybody knows that Scotland is the land of spirits, and we aren’t just talking about whisky. Scottish folklore is full of pixies, white ladies and ghosts that occasionally walk the world of the living. And distilleries are certainly not spared these cordial visits. What better occasion than Halloween to tell you a few stories about it? MNIW shall be your bard for today, here to tell you some spooky stories about the distilleries and their ghosts. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Bowmore’s devil

In 2013, Bowmore released a special Halloween edition: The Devil’s Casks. This limited bottling of 6,000 bottles was not named with a random scary name just because it was Halloween. Indeed, Bowmore wanted to pay homage to the legend which states that the devil himself was caught in the church of Bowmore!

Somewhen, during the middle 19th century, the devil apparently decided to take up residence in Bowmore village (well, can’t blame him. It is actually a rather pretty little town). Nevertheless, the good townspeople managed to find him and bring him inside the town’s main church. The church is built in a circular fashion provided no hiding place for the devil and the townspeople thought they had him. But the devil is a clever guy. Somehow, he managed to escape and, descending down the hill from the church, found refuge in the Bowmore Distillery warehouses.

During the night, the townspeople searched the distillery for the devil, but with no good luck. Legend has it that the devil hid inside a cask that was loaded onto the ship to mainland Scotland. The ship sailed from Bowmore but never landed in Scotland: the ship and the devil were lost forever.

Bowmore and the Headless Knight

Another spooky tale from the Bowmore Distillery is that of the headless horseman. I am not surprised by this. Bowmore in the middle of winter can be a spooky place with the wind howling from the coast and the dark cloak of the night that seems to devour the houses.

Legend has it that an Islay crofter named Lachlan Bàn was returning home one night. Suddenly, through the darkness, he saw a ghostly figure: the silhouette of a headless horseman galloping away from his house. The poor fellow Lachlan immediately turned pale!

On entering the house, Lachlan was cautious. He slowly opened the door and saw that the fire he had left lit only an hour before was out. He looked around the room and then noticed that the middle of the floor was wet, and on the table stood an opened bottle of Bowmore Single Malt whisky with a generous dram missing. Whatever creature had visited him that night, he certainly had good taste!

What to do with the remaining whisky?

 “Surely, accepting gifts from such an eerie intruder could only lead to misfortune,” thought Lachlan. Sadly, he decided to throw the bottle out and locked the door behind him. His dreams were tormented by a headless knight who had returned to take away his bottle of whisky, He was angry at him for having thrown away the precious liquid, and the knight was knocking furiously at the door, threatening to smash it down. But when Lachlan awoke, he could tell it was only the wind howling outside in the night. Nevertheless, he did not have a good sleep.

The week after

The next day, Lachlan told everything about his encounter at the local Inn. As was to be expected, everyone was stunned by the episode and feared the return of the mysterious knight.

The truth, however, was revealed after a week. One day, the crofter’s brother visited him. “I passed last Friday night during that dreadful storm”, the brother said, “the wind had forced your door open and blown out the fire, I brought a bottle of Bowmore to share with you, but I could t wait long, so I took a quick dram and rode for home with my cloak pulled tight over my head to keep out the rain”.

He was the mysterious horseman then! Too embarrassed to tell, Lachlan never related the true story to the villagers. So, because of him, to this day, no true Ileach offers an opened bottle of whisky to guests, for fear of attracting the thirsty headless horseman! Lucky for us that we are visiting, only fresh bottles!

Bowmore distillery also released a bottling dedicated to this story: Bowmore Legend of the Phantom Horseman Limited Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. It was a rare old bottling from the year 1997 of the Bowmore limited legend series, presented in the years 1994 to 2006. The limited bottlings were available internationally, and a special version was also launched on the Italian market. If you can, try to find this rare bottling for your collection!

The Dame Blanche of Glenmorangie Distillery

Allegedly, the ghost of a white lady haunts Glenmorangie distillery. A ghost in the highlands, who would have thought, right? Apparently, she is a rather mischievous one. Members of the staff at the distillery swear to find ripped wallpaper and broken windows from time to time. Sometimes, when they are fully absorbed in their work and they are passing from one room to the other, they can feel the temperature suddenly drop, followed by a creepy sensation to be observed. 

What a naughty ghost indeed! However, the most sceptical people have another explanation. The White Lady was a made-up story told to apprentices to keep them from sleeping at night. You see, back in the days when Glenmorangie had its own floor maltings, and the shovellers were expected to work around the clock. This means no sleep! I bet they were all fully awake while they were doing their night shift…

Loch Ardnahoe, a picture from the Ardnahoe Distillery website

The White steed or Ardnhoe Loch

Ardnahoe is a new distillery, barely born in 2019 but already delighting us with its products. However, the place on which it stands is much older, and so are the creatures that apparently live around the lake the distillery overlooks.

Indeed, a mystery surrounds Loch Ardnahoe. No one knows how deep the loch is. Some are ready to swear that, on full moon nights, Loch Ardnahoe is more alive than ever. When the moon is at its peak and sheds its soft light on the black waters of the loch, the ghost of a white stallion emerges from the waves to walk placidly on its shores.

The Ghosts roaming the distilleries

Most distillery ghosts are the un-departed soul of people who died there in unfortunate circumstances. Here we will give you a non-finished list of them, just in case you happen to visit these places and find yourself with a chilly sensation on the back of your neck. Thus, you will know why…

Glen Ord apparently is hunted by a former maltman, Cardhu by a mash man, and Glengoyne by the ghost of Mr Cochran Cartwright (manager 1869 – 1899). Moreover, Glen Spey is reported to be haunted by a WW2 soldier who was accidentally electrocuted in the distillery while stationed there. Locals claim to have seen this sad ghost several times…

Glen Scotia is also troubled by a ghost: the former owner. In 1930, Duncan McCallum tragically committed suicide by throwing himself into the Campbeltown Loch, after learning that he had been ruined by a business deal. His spirit still returns from time to time to haunt the building.

But there are also places that host multiple phantoms. Glenkinchie is the house of a former maltman Gentle Tam, Mrs Redpath and Mischievous Willie, who throws distillery guides across the floor. So yeah, if you see some pamphlets floating in the air, you know who to blame now.

The Highland Park Ghost

Surprisingly, there are also brave people who try to have some contact with these non-corporeal figures. Paul Pacult tried to speak with Magnus Eunson, the departed founder of Highland Park that was said to still linger on his property. Paul spent the night in the chilly, silent darkness of the warehouse at Highland Park. While waiting for his spectral friend, we heard clanking sounds and a gust of wind brought “a rolling wave of rich, almost vanilla-like fragrance,” but he never saw Eunson. 

The next morning, Paul talked to the watchman and discovered that there had been no one in the distillery the past night, and the evening was also far from being windy, as it was rarely calm. Apparently, Paul met Mr Eunson afterwards. He just probably didn’t fancy talking with Paul.

A rare picture of a ghost watching you entering a distillery

In Conclusion

If we have learnt anything from these stories, it is sure to watch our backs on our next visit to the distilleries. And please, if you know of any other stories tag us and let us know. Happy Halloween everyone, and watch out for the spirits…

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