Travel Spring: Annandale Distillery is back with new flavours

The rebirth of Annandale Distillery after a 100-year “sleep”, and its transformation into a five-star Visit Scotland tourist attraction and state-of-the-art whisky distillery is surely one of Dumfries and Galloway’s most remarkable tourism success stories.
Annandale DistilleryAnnandale Distillery
Annandale Distillery

First established in 1830 by a former excise man, George Donald, the site was originally chosen for its abundant supply of fresh, cleanwater – one of the essential components of whisky – and for powering the grain mill for the barley.

Crucially, the area was rich in peat for firing the kiln, while its damp and mild climate proved essential for the maturation of the whisky.

One of the first “legal distilleries” in Scotland, Annandale was bought by Johnnie Walker in 1893, and its believed that the famous brand used it as a source of plated whisky for its blended products.

Production at the distillery ceased shortly after the end of World War I.The once plentiful resources that had made the distillery such an attractive proposition had begun to dwindle and the rise of worldwide temperance movements had resulted in a dramatic downturn in the global demand for whisky.

With the distillery equipment removed, the building was used for farming – and consequently quite well preserved – until it was bought by Professor David Thomson and Teresa Church in 2007, who began an extensive £17.5-million restoration project to convert it into a fully functional distillery once again.

Finally re-opening with a purpose-built visitor centre in 2015, the Annandale Distillery now offers the opportunity to get up close with the whisky-making process – from mashing to maturation. Tours run daily, which allows visitors to try the array of whiskies on offer, while learning about the science behind the flavours ensures that there’s something for the whole family to appreciate. Sensibly, under-12s are granted free admission while12 to 17-year-olds can take part for only a pound.

There’s also a welcome chance to grab an award-winning afternoon tea at the dog-friendly Maltings Coffee Shop. Once the original distillery’s maltings floor, the cafe is fully licensed and offers Scottish craft beers and ciders, as well as the full range of Annandale’s whiskies, which are only available here and at the historic Globe Inn, Dumfries – which was also acquired and restored by Thomson and Church in 2018.

Once a favourite howff of Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns, the Globe is now home to a Michelin-recommended restaurant, and is an excellent shout if you want to sample some of Scotland’s best fare.

Thomson and Church describe themselves as “custodians of The Globe” and their work in Dumfries is further testament to their passion for renovation and preservation.

Professor Thomson was originally inspired to take on the Annandale project as a way to anchor his life in his native Scotland, in cahoots with Church. Both of them describe Annandale Distillery as a case of “love at first sight”.

The distillery’s tours and cafe have proved exceptionally popular with visitors and locals alike, while its whiskies are now enjoyed all over the world. There are whiskies to suit every pocket and palate – including Storyman, a premium blend whisky created in association with Game of Thrones and Braveheart actor James Cosmo.

Annandale also produce two signature single malts – the peated Man O’Sword, which also salutes the Bruce, and the unpeated Man O’Words, in honour of Rabbie Burns.