The distilleries of Scotland were often built centuries ago and as such many were named in the traditional manner of Scotland using Gaelic names.

As romantic as the spirit itself, Gaelic is a beautifully poetic language though it can often be impenetrable for those who do not speak it.

We have looked at the origins of some of Scotland’s most famous distilleries to discover where their names originated from and what they mean:

1. Dailuaine distillery, Strathspey

(Region: Speyside, Founded: 1852)

Founded in 1852 by William McKenzie, the distillery is currently owned by Diageo.

Pronounced (Dall-YEWan) Dailuaine derives from the Gaelic ‘An dail uaine’ meaning ‘green valley’ as the distillery is probably named after the lush valley in which it is located.

Did you know? Dailuaine was the first distillery to have a pagoda roof created by Charles Diog.

Picture: Wikimedia

Picture: Wikimedia

2. Ardnamurchan distillery, Argyll

(Region: Highlands, Founded: 2014)

Ardnamuchan was founded in 2014 by the independent bottler Adelphi Distillery Limited and is the company’s first attempt at owning their own distillery.

The name Ardnamurchan derives from the Gaelic Ard na Murchan, meaning “the hill of the great sea” and refers to the distillery’s location on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Did you know? Ardnamurchan is the most westerly distillery on the mainland.

Picture: Ardnamurchan

Picture: Ardnamurchan

3. Auchroisk distillery, Banffshire

(Region: Speyside, Founded: 1974)

Auchroisk distillery was founded in 1974 by Justerini and Brooks for creating malt to blend, it is now owned by Diageo thanks to the merger of J & B’s parent company with Guinness (which created the current drinks company).

Auchroisk pronounced (OHthrusk) and is derived from the Gaelic Ath ruaidh-uisge which means shallow ford across the red stream in Gaelic, and refers to the nearby Mulben Burn.

Did you know? Auchroisk was called Singleton between 1986 and 2001, as the name Auchroisk was considered too difficult for those outside Scotland to understand.

Picture: Wikimedia

Picture: Wikimedia

4. Aberfeldy distillery, Perthshire

(Region: Highlands, Founded: 1896)

Aberfeldy was founded in 1896 by John and Tommy Dewar, who went on to become John Dewar and sons and produce the blend Dewars. The distillery is now owned by Bacardi after they bought Dewars from Diageo in 1998.

Aberfeldy is derived from the Gaelic Obar Pheallaidh which means mouth of the stream of Peallaidh (in Scottish folklore the Peallaidh was a water monster that resided in rivers)

Did you know? Tommy Dewar became well known for his marketing techniques and witticisms and was often quoted as saying ‘a tee-totaller is one who suffers from thirst instead of enjoying it.’

Picture: Wikimedia

Picture: Wikimedia

5. Edradour distillery, Highlands

(Region: Highlands, Founded: 1825)

The distillery was founded in 1825 in Pitlochry and is owned by the independent bottlers Signatory Vintage.

Edradour is derived from the Gaelic Eadar da dhobhar which means between two waters .

Did you know? Edradour claims to be the smallest distillery in Scotland – though that claim is now disputed – and is only run by a staff of two.

Picture: Wikimedia

Picture: Wikimedia

6. Dalwhinnie distillery, Highlands

(Region: Highlands, Founded: 1898 )

One of the highest distilleries in Scotland, Dalwhinnie was founded in 1898 and is currently owned by Diageo.

Dalwhinnie is derived from the Gaelic Dail Chunnaidh which translates as ‘Field of Champions’ and was said to be the original mustering ground of the Highland clans before they embarked on raids of the south*.

Did you know? Dalwhinnie was originally called Strathspey

Picture: Wikimedia

Picture: Wikimedia

 

Picture: WhiskySuggest.com

Picture: WhiskySuggest.com**

 

7. Tullibardine distillery, Blackford

(Region: Highlands, Founded: 1949)

Tullibardine was founded in 1949 and is currently owned by  French firm Picard Vins & Spiritueux.

Tullibardine, which comes from the Gaelic Tullach Bhardainn, which means the hill of warning.

Did you know? The distillery was originally built by a Welshman and was not the first distillery to be called Tullibardine in that location.

Picture: Wikipedia

Picture: Wikipedia

8. Talisker distillery, Isle of Skye

(Region: Highlands (Islands), Founded: 1830)

Talisker is currently the only distillery on Skye – though there are plans in the works for more – it was founded in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill and is currently owned by Diageo.

The name Talisker is said to be derived from either the Scottish Gaelic talamh sgeir meaning  ‘land of the cliff’ or the Norse t-hallr Skjaer, which means sloping rock. Both make sense due to the distillery’s location, though there is still an ongoing debate.

Did you know?  One of the leases for the distillery was said to have been negotiated with the chief of Clan MacLeod in 1892, with the annual payment said to be a tidy sum of money and a ten-gallon cask of best-quality whisky produced by the distillery.

Picture: Flickr

Picture: Flickr

*Source – The Language of Whisky

** Infographic – WhiskySuggest.com 

See also:

• A Guide to Gaelic names for Scottish distilleries 

• A Guide to Gaelic names for Scottish distilleries (Part 2)

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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