Wolfburn

In 1821 William Smith founded a distillery on the outskirts of Thurso, the most northerly town on the British mainland, and named it Wolfburn after the watercourse it drew from, “burn” being the Scots word for stream or small river. The exact date of its closing is lost in time, with some records indicating that it may still have been producing whisky in the 1860s.

In May 2011 the current makers of Wolfburn whisky located the site of the old distillery in Thurso, Caithness. After 150 years of neglect what they found was a barely discernible pile of stones but one thing remained from the yesteryears of Wolfburn distillery; the water. The cold clear waters that fed the mash tun and stills all those years ago were still flowing just as they always had, and if the Wolf Burn was still there then, it was reckoned, the whisky could be too.

The Wolf Burn is a subterranean spring that rises in the wetlands upstream and flows only a few miles before it reaches the sea. No one seems to know where the name of the burn originates, but wolves were certainly once commonplace in Scotland and roamed Caithness in numbers in the 1500s. By the late 1600s they had been hunted and trapped to extinction. Using un-peated malt the stillmen of Wolfburn distillery today are crafting the latest incarnation of Wolfburn whisky from a blank canvas by pot still distillation the old way; no automation, no rush and a lot of care. A variety of casks continue to be filled with new Wolfburn spirit and are laid down in the warehouses to mature. Some will remain there for many years to come and it will be a while yet before the first bung is extracted to see what the cold air of the north shore has delivered for the next generation of Wolfburn drinkers.
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