As it is the month of October, I thought I’d share a few stories of haunted whisky distilleries. These all took place in various locations in Scotland, although it seems to me that distilleries in other countries have had their fair share of ghostly visitors also.
From headless riders to mystic vibrations, these ghost stories will give you enough chills to get into the Halloween spirit. And I’ve added a few whisky recommendations to calm the nerves.
The Wolf at Tomatin Distillery
Legend has it that the last wolf in Scotland was killed near the Tomatin Distillery. The wolf still haunts the grounds and the surrounding areas. The ghost is said to hunt its prey before transforming into a smoky blue cloud.
It was once seen by a distillery worker who, after initially running away, felt compelled to touch the wolf’s fur. As he reached out his hand, the animal dissipated into a plume of ghostly smoke over the moorlands…
In honour of the ghost, the distillery released a special bottling called Cù Bòcan, which means “ghost dog” in Gaelic.
Try: Cù Bòcan Creation #3, aged in Moroccan Cabernet Sauvignon and North American rye casks, 46% ABV
Tomatin 15-Year-Old Moscatel Cask Portuguese Collection, 46% ABV
The Headless Horseman of Bowmore
You may have heard about the headless horseman of Bowmore… The story goes that Islay crofter Lachlan Bàn was returning home one dark and stormy night when he saw the ghostly silhouette of a headless horseman galloping away from his house.
Despite lacking a head, the horseman was clearly a fun-loving type, as he appeared to have left Lachlan an open bottle of Bowmore whisky. When Lachlan walked in, the bottle stood open on the table and the fire had gone out. Thoroughly terrified, he didn’t fancy keeping the ghost’s gift, so he threw it away.
But have you heard the real story, the more logical one…
Apparently, Lachlan’s brother later told him that he had paid him a visit that night, during a dreadful storm. The wind had forced the door open and blown out the fire. The brother had brought a bottle of Bowmore to share with him, but couldn’t wait long, so he took a quick dram and rode home with his cloak pulled tight over his head to keep out the rain.
Try: Bowmore 15-Year-Old, matured in ex-bourbon casks followed by three years in Oloroso sherry casks, 43% ABV
Haunted Tales of Jura Distillery
This one is based in Jura. In 1781, Laird Archibald Campbell banned distilling and closed down the only distillery on the island. Twenty-nine years later, Campbell woke in the middle of the night to see a ghostly old woman hovering over his bed. She gave him such a strong telling-off for the lack of whisky on the island that it was said to have changed Campbell’s decision and they finally began distilling in an old smuggler’s cave in 1810. To ensure that no more ghosts appear to frighten anyone, it’s said that a bottle of 16-year-old whisky is still left in a secret cave somewhere on the island, just in case.
The ghostly goings-on didn’t stop there, however. Fast-forward to 2010, when two journalists visited Jura on a ghost hunt. They attached a collar with a webcam to the distillery cat to see if they could find anything unusual. Elvis, the distillery cat, and his cat-cam caught a ghostly woman. Psychic Joan Charles was called to investigate, and she revealed the presence of Elizabeth Quinn, an authoritative and kind spirit. Former distillery manager, Willie Cochrane, confirmed there had been a teacher called Elizabeth who lived on the island many years before.
Try: Jura 21-Year-Old Tide, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in virgin American white oak casks, 46.7%
Spanish Lady at GlenDronach Distillery
GlenDronach Distillery used to import large numbers of Spanish Oloroso sherry casks back in the 1970s. The story goes that while unloading the casks at the distillery, one of the men saw a woman dressed in scarlet and wearing a full mantilla escaping from one of the empty casks.
Since then, she has been spotted in various parts of the distillery, although rumour has it that the Glen House is where she likes to spend most of her time. Apparently, she is quite partial to the odd tipple now and then.
Try: GlenDronach Boynsmill 16-Year-Old, aged in PX and Oloroso sherry casks and port casks, 46% ABV (travel retail)
GlenDronach 15-Year-Old Revival, aged in both PX and Oloroso sherry casks, 46% ABV
Mystic vibrations at Glen Scotia Distillery
On the night before Christmas Eve in 1930 in Campbeltown, distillery owner Duncan MacCallum died in ‘mysterious circumstances’.
The story goes that he drowned himself in Crosshill Loch, the distillery’s water supply, after losing a fortune in a crooked business deal. It is not clear whether he did take his own life or if there was foul play involved.
Whatever the truth, his ghost haunts the distillery to this day. Many employees refuse to venture into certain areas after dark.
When I spoke with Neil Ridley recently about his musical collaboration with Glen Scotia Distillery, he also recalled experiencing some unusual mishaps while trying to record the various sounds at the distillery. Perhaps it was MacCallum’s presence that disturbed the frequencies, flickered the lights and turned off equipment.
Try: Glen Scotia Victoriana, finished in deep charred oak casks, bottled at cask strength, 54.2% ABV
Glen Scotia 15-Year-Old, aged in 1st fill bourbon casks and re-fill American oak casks, 46% ABV
Looking for more bottle recommendations for Halloween? 12 Smoke-Fulled Bottles for Winter
Have you experienced any ghostly spirits during any distillery visits? Have you heard about other haunted whisky distilleries?
*Some of the links used are affiliate links. If you buy through the links, I may receive a commission for the sale. This has no effect on the price for you.