Isle of Raasay – The Magic of a Hebridean Distiller
Nestled amid the rugged beauty of the Scottish Hebrides, the Isle of Raasay Distillery is a compelling testament to the spirit of adventure. Discover the intoxicating blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern innovation that makes Raasay not just a distillery, but a genuine experience of Scotland’s cultural heritage. Get ready to raise a glass to the spirit of discovery and the magic of the Hebrides.
Before we get to the distillery tour, let’s take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the Isle of Raasay. This small island located off the coast of the Isle of Skye boasts stunning landscapes and some stunning views. Just a short 25 min ferry ride. It’s no wonder the Isle of Raasay Distillery chose this picturesque spot to set up shop. As you approach the distillery up the road from the ferry terminal, you’ll be greeted by a modern, stylish building that blends in perfectly with the surrounding hills.
Once inside the distillery, we found out we were the only ones on our tour! Our own private tour by the fabulous Stephen. You are walked right through their cafe and upstairs into the actual distillery, meeting various staff along the way. Stephen was so informative and personal, regaling us with stories of the island along the way. I won’t go into detail about the distillation process, but it was so amazing to experience the passion these folks have for making an incredible spirit. Part of their ethos is to make sure every part of the whisky-making process is done on the Island. Which these days is very commendable. They truly care about the community and island spirit.
After journeying through the distillation area, Stephen led us to their bottling facility, another integral part of the whisky production process that they proudly carry out on the island itself. It was fascinating to observe the meticulous care put into every stage of bottling, underscoring their commitment to delivering a product of the highest quality. To top off the experience, we were given a chance to taste their new make spirit, a unique offering that is in essence, whisky in its rawest form. This rare opportunity allowed us to appreciate the purity and potential of the spirit, offering a glimpse into the remarkable transformation that occurs through the aging process. We were shown how they started hand bottling and labeling, to now with their fantastic newer bottling/ machine!
After the tour, it’s time for the tasting! You’ll get to sample the distillery’s award-winning spirits, including their Raasay Single malt, Dùn Cana, and their Raasay Gin. Stephen walked us through each of these with plenty of information to go with them. Each one has its unique flavour profile, showcasing the distillery’s commitment to experimentation and innovation. The Raasay Single Malt is a perfect balance of sweetness and spice, with hints of peat smoke that pays tribute to the island’s rich heritage. On the other hand, Dùn Cana offers a more complex taste, with peppery spice, dried fruit, hints of vanilla with a finish of lingering smoked chocolate. And for gin lovers, Raasay Gin is a must-try, with its refreshing botanical blend of juniper, rhubarb root, and sweet orange peel.
The Isle of Raasay, while small in population, boasts an unwavering sense of community. Its inhabitants, although few, are deeply attached to their island home. However, like many small communities, Raasay faced a challenge common in remote areas – the outmigration of its younger population, seeking opportunities elsewhere. The establishment of the distillery proved to be a pivotal turning point. It not only created jobs but also fostered a renewed sense of optimism and vibrancy. The distillery became a beacon, attracting a new, younger demographic back to the island. This influx of energy and enthusiasm breathed fresh life into Raasay, ensuring the preservation and growth of its rich cultural heritage. The distillery, besides its role in whisky production, has become a symbol of the island’s resilience and its bright, promising future.
Their staff, hailing from both the local community and beyond, inject a refreshing energy into their roles. They skillfully blend contemporary techniques with time-honoured traditions. Their innovative approach has played a significant role in the distillery’s success, with their passion for the craft evident in every bottle of Raasay’s award-winning spirits.
Adding to the distillery’s immersive experience is its lovely café, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the stunning Isle of Skye. Sit back, relax, and savour a hot cup of coffee or a delicious meal while taking in the peaceful beauty of the surrounding landscapes. It was also amazing to see they were using a small local roaster from Skye, Caora Dhubh. A roaster we had visited the day before, whose tiny shop sits right across from Talisker. It was awesome seeing a small thing like that. People don’t come to the distillery for coffee, they weren’t advertising it, so they could’ve easily chosen some store-bought coffee. Instead, they stand by their principles and bring in coffee from a nearby roaster. It’s little things like that, that shows you that their care for the community isn’t lip service.
Moreover, Raasay Distillery boasts the unique distinction of being the only distillery in Scotland where you can extend your visit overnight, in the same building as a working distillery. The distillery’s remarkable on-site accommodation offers guests a chance to experience the magic and charm of island life firsthand. The rooms, with their tasteful décor and comfortable furnishings, provide a perfect blend of modern comfort and rustic charm. Waking up to the breathtaking views of the Isle of Skye is an experience you’ll savour, making your stay at the distillery an unforgettable part of your Scottish adventure.
A visit to the Raasay Distillery is an immersive experience that goes beyond the typical distillery tour. From the meticulously crafted spirits to the stunning views, from the delightful café to the unique on-site accommodation, every aspect of Raasay Distillery embodies a profound respect for local traditions and a strong commitment to the community. It’s not just a distillery, but a testament to the charm, warmth, and resilience of the Scottish spirit. For anyone looking to delve into the heart of Scotland, a journey to Raasay Distillery is an experience that is not to be missed.
Check out our blog on Sustainability in the Whisky World.
Author: Andrew is an adventurous photographer with a keen eye for detail and a passion for discovering captivating stories. His love of coffee fuels his creative spirit while traveling Scotland in search of the best distilleries. His preference lies with those that prioritise community and sustainability over profit; namely Isle of Raasay, Isles of Harris, Ardnamurchan, and Glenfarclas. He values the importance of relationships between people, places, and products.