The ‘toast to the ghost’ has become a tradition at a number of distilleries since numerous distilleries are said to be haunted by ghosts. Let’s go on some ghost adventures!
The White Lady
One example is Glenmorangie, near Tain in the county of Ross-shire, where ‘The White Lady’ was used to advantage of managers of Glenmorangie, who would warn young apprentices when they began work at the distillery that the sight of apparition had been enough to drive some men mad. Back in the days when Glenmorangie had its floor maltings site, most new apprentices began work on the malting floors and they were expected to work around the clock. Given that one sleepy shoveller could ruin the next day’s mash, it’s possible the threat of an imminent apparition was all that was needed to keep the night shift awake…
Glen Scotia apparition
It is claimed that Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia Distillery is haunted by the ghost of former distillery owner and local industrialist Duncan MacCallum, who committed suicide by drowning himself in nearby Crosshill Loch on the night before Christmas Eve in 1930, after being cheated out of a fortune in a crooked business deal. Whatever the truth of the matter, his ghost remains at the distillery to this day – meaning that many employees won’t venture into certain areas after dark. Apparently, MacCallum’s ghost keeps an especially close eye on contractors, who have reported the sensation of being watched by a ghostly presence.
Of we go to the Highlands, where we visit GlenDronach, best-known for its sherried whiskies and where The Spanish Lady said to be haunting the dunnage warehouse. The Spanish Lady is said to have arrived in of the oloroso casks and was first seen by workers at the distillery site when they unloaded the casks brought over from Spain. Understandebly, the transition from Spanish sun to the cold and damp of Aberdeenshire was not a happy one: she was desperately lonely and found an underground tunnel that led to nearby Glen House, where she found ‘peace, comfort and lots of human spirits to keep her company’. Very sensibly, The Spanish Lady chose to haunt the bedroom named GlenDronach – and many guests have seen her since or felt her presence.
Speyside seems to be a particularly rich hunting ground for spectres, with Cardhu, Aberlour and Glenrothes all claiming their share of hauntings. The Glenrothes ghost was thought to be that of Biawa Makalanga, the African boy found abandoned by Major James Grant during a hunting trip to Matabeleland in the 1890’s, and subsequently brought back to Speyside. Biawa continued to live in Glen Grant House until his death in 1972, outliving the Major by more than 40 years.Seven years later, following the installation of a new pair of stills at nearby Glenrothes, the ghost of Biawa appeared on two occasions. Professor Cedric Wilson investigated this matter and discovered that the new still had unintentionally disturbed a leyline. After the professor had a little chat with the gravestone on Biawa Makalanga’s grave, the issue was said to have been resolved.
The Headless Horseman of Bowmore
The next ghost story is so chilling that it is said to have influenced drinking culture on the Islay…
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 friendly type: he appeared to have left Bàn a bottle of Bowmore (but only after taking a dram himself). When Bàn 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. Of course there’s a logical explanation for all of this. According to Bowmore, Bàn’s brother later told him: ‘Lachlan, I passed last Friday night during that dreadful storm. The wind had forced your door open and blown out the fire. I brought a bottle of Bowmore to share with you, but I couldn’t wait long, so I took a quick dram and rode for home with my cloak pulled tight over my head to keep out the rain.’
Once Bàn heard this, he was – perhaps understandably – too embarrassed to tell the islanders the truth. So, even now, a true Ileach (native of Islay) will always open a fresh bottle for guests.