Chapter One – The White Stag of Arran
‘The distillery manager and his head distiller stood overlooking the brand-new distillery building on the beautiful Isle of Arran; a land dotted with mountain caves, cliffs, neolithic clyde cairns and entrancing, mystical standing stones. It was a both an exciting and nerve-wracking day as Arran Distillery was opening for the very first time. Would everything run okay, would the aromas of fermenting grain fill the air, or would it all go terribly wrong?
The sunlight filtered through the mist drifting across Lochranza meadow.
“Did you see that?” “Yes, I ….no, I mean, I’m not sure.” The light played across the standing stones, upright like sentinels guarding the entrance to a mystical world beyond. At that moment, the mist parted and a ray of pure sunlight fell upon it; an ethereal form, confidently striding, yet at the same time almost floating across the meadow. Suddenly, it came to a stop, turned and directed its gaze straight at the distillery and the men, now open mouthed in awe. The majestic yet powerful looking apparition stamped the ground with one hoof, tendrils of steam escaping his nostrils. “He’s going to charge at us, run…….”
And then, in one fluid motion, the White Stag bowed his head – he had bestowed his blessing of good fortune on the distillery. And that good fortune has remained ever since.
Chapter Two – Dougal and the Giant of Atholl
Dougal was crouched behind the boulder. There were eight of them in total, all hidden in the shadows, all holding their breath for fear of disturbing him. The giant laying sleeping in the mouth of his cave, exhausted from his repeated rampages on the local clachan.
Now, they had found his lair, now, they would seek their revenge and be rid of him for good. One of the others moved and a dry tree branch broke. The sound ripped through the still of the night like the crack of a whip and the eyes of the giant snapped open immediately. Dougal’s breath quickened……’hold your nerve’ he thought – ‘don’t move, don’t let him see you.’ The moonlight momentarily silvered the face of Hamish and Dougal saw the terror, the torment of flight or fight etched across his face….’stay still’ Dougal mouthed, ‘stay calm’….
It happened in the blink of an eye; the instinct to run engulfing the desire to remain, the giant moved with unfathomable agility and Hamish was scattered across the glen, in pieces. The roar from the giant was blood curdling. The hairs on Dougal’s neck prickled and he fought the urge to run, but he alone in doing so. The other six darted into the trees, dodging from one to the next, hoping to outwit their pursuer. Some lasted no more than minutes, whilst others made it back to the clachan. But the giant followed and he vented his anger like never before. The bodies of men littered the ground. Dougal watched from the trees, knowing there was little point trying to attack now – he had to be clever.
Darting back to the dingy, foul smelling cave entrance, Dougal found the skeletal remains of stolen cattle, sacks of grain and oats, jars of honey and – two casks of whisky! Dougal refused to let his people endure another winter of hardship at the hands of this beast. Finding what appeared to be a cup fashioned from a boulder, Dougal poured in the oats from the sacks along with the honey and the contents of both whisky casks. He then left the cup underneath an ancient oak tree close to the cave and he hid – in the depths of the grimy lair.
Just moments later, the ground shuddered from the giant’s thunderous footsteps. He marched toward the cave; he was heading straight for Dougal’s hiding place…. when he smelled it, a sweet yet creamy aroma; now giants aren’t smart, so not thinking it was strange that his cup had been mysteriously filled, he simply couldn’t resist, and there under the oak tree, the giant drained his cup – and fell asleep. Dougal seized his chance, leapt from beneath the remaining sacks of oats and killed the giant while he slumbered.
Dougal returned home a hero and to mark his momentous achievement he invented a drink called the Atholl Brose, the recipe of which passed down from generation to generation.
Chapter three – The ghost of Glenrothes Distillery
The distiller walked into the new still house, it all looked fine but…he took a sharp intake of breath, there it was again.
The shiver he felt previously was back, always here, only here, at still no.3. He rubbed his hands up and down his arms to warm himself and chase the chills away, turned and, what was that? “Is someone there?” he tentatively called. It must have been a trick of the light. He ambled back across to the other two stills, they looked fine, working just as they should.
He walked back to still no.3 and that’s when he noticed it. The black fungus was common in Scottish distilleries due to the climate, but it here it was worse than he’d ever seen. He walked outside, keeping alert, yet feeling wary. Across the road from the distillery was the graveyard and there it was, on the gravestones, the same black fungus, something wasn’t right.
He returned to the still house, shaking his head at such nonsense, marched straight up to still no.3 and; he gasped, the hairs on his arms stood upright and he felt eyes watching him. Slowly, very slowly, he turned around. There, but barely there was the shimmering outline of an African gentleman, staring back at him, this was the second sighting of this apparition.
The distiller fled the still room, and relayed his story to his colleagues. This clearly required specialist help.
Professor Cedric Wilson was observed arriving at the distillery, where he stood, in silence. He then walked across the road to the cemetery, directly to one particular grave and spent the next few minutes in apparent conversation with the grave’s occupant. Following this highly unusual situation, the Professor announced that the deceased, known as ‘Byeway’ was unhappy with the positioning of the still and was concerned it would unfavourably affect the quality of the whisky produced.
Biawa ‘Byeway’ Makalaga had been rescued in Africa by Colonel Grant of Rothes (the same Colonel Grant of Glen Grant Distillery further along the road) when he was a child. He had become a helper to the Colonel and enjoyed the friendship of the locals, even playing for the village football team.
The still was realigned and the ghost of Byeway was never seen again. However, just to make sure he’s happy, it has become tradition at Glenrothes that each sampling of new whisky has a “toast to the ghost”