Rare drought halts Tobermory distillery production
FORGET the hose-pipe ban. Distillers on the island of Mull are facing a whisky ban.
While the rest of the country has seen one of the wettest starts to the summer for years, the micro-climate on Mull has produced a drought which has forced the island’s historic distillery to halt production for the first time in nearly two decades.
Tobermory, one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland, has ceased making its revered single malts for the forseeable future after the loch from which it draws water dried up from a lack of rainfall.
This marks the first time production has ever been stopped on the island distillery since it was acquired by parent company, Burn Stewart, in 1993.
However, management have moved to reassure whisky connoisseurs that existing supplies are plentiful, and production will resume as soon as there is a sustained period of rain.
Built in 1798, Tobermory is the only distillery on Mull. It produces two very distinct single malts – Tobermory, known for its smooth taste, and the robustly peated Ledaig – and uses water from a small private loch close by the Mishnish lochs, about two miles south-west of the town.
Ian MacMillan, master blender and distilleries manager for Burn Stewart Distillers, the parent company, said conditions had been getting drier ever since the beginning of May, resulting in sporadic production levels.
As the dry spell continued, management at Tobermory decided this week to cease production until the heavens reopen and allow the loch to refill.
Mr MacMillan said: “Production has been stopped because Tobermory has seen the lowest rainfall since the distillery was acquired by Burn Stewart in 1993. We’ve never faced this before. The distillery has been getting progressively drier for the past five or six weeks, and production has been stopping and starting, but a decision’s been taken to discontinue production until there’s sufficient rainfall.
“However, it’s not an issue for customers as there is plenty of stock, and obviously the rainfall in the winter months will replenish that. While there’s been a short-term interruption in production, there will be no serious impact in supply of the whisky itself. It’s really a very unusual situation.”
Mr MacMillan discounted the idea of shipping in water to cope with he drought, reasoning it would “interfere with the integrity of the blending process”.
Asked when production would resume, he said that it was a case of “waiting for the rain,” adding: “We know it’s going to come. Given that we have plentiful supply of the whisky, no-one’s on tenterhooks.”
Charlie Powell, a forecaster with the Met Office, said that the island had experienced less than a fifth of its average rainfall in the first two weeks of this month, but revealed the distillery had reason to be optimistic, courtesy of showery conditions forecast for the week ahead.
“That part of western Scotland has seen very little rain recently. It’s been very dry, with just 20.3mm of rainfall in the first two weeks of June, which is just 18 per cent of the long-term average monthly rainfall,” he said.
“The area is normally one of the wettest anywhere in the UK in June, second only to western Wales. We’d usually see 112.7mm of rainfall on average, so that puts it into perspective.”
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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