Robert Burns

Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759 and his links with Ayrshire and Arran are well known. In fact, although the bard never actually visited the Isle of Arran, he is certain to have been able to see it on clear days as he laboured in the fields of Ayrshire on his father’s farm. At that time there were several illicit stills on Arran which produced whisky that was claimed by many to be “among the finest whiskies available”. This was shipped to Dunure in Ayrshire – then the centre of the illegal whisky trade – before being shipped to the gentry in Scotland’s major cities where they “took the Arran waters”.

Robert was the eldest of seven children and worked alongside his brothers on his father’s farm. Despite being from a poor family, he and his brother were lucky enough to have a tutor who introduced them to the joys of literature. Aged 15 Robert began to start writing in order to find some sort of release from the daily grind of farm life. At this early age he produced his first poetry which was dedicated to the main subjects which dominated his life – scotch whisky and women! After the death of his father in 1784, Robert and his brother took over the farm although by this time the romantic nature of poetry led him to seek the sunnier skies of the West Indies. He was on the point of abandoning farm life in Scotland when his first collection of poetry “Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect – Kilmarnock Edition” was published and was extremely well received. He therefore decided to stay in Scotland, parenthood also a contributing factor in this decision, and he began to mix with the literary and artistic circles in Edinburgh. This change of fortune in his social life was not necessarily backed up by financial fortune so he supplemented his low income as a poet by working as a “gauger” – a member of her majesty’s hated Customs & Excise – yet another link to Arran and its illicit stills of days gone by. All the while, he continued to write poetry and songs.

In the latter part of his life he produced such masterpieces as Tam O’Shanter and Red Red Rose and he eventually passed away of ill health aged 37. His funeral took place on the day that his wife Jean Armour gave birth to his last son Maxwell. Over 10 000 people came to his funeral although, as is the case with many artists, his popularity has reached even more impressive heights since he died. Although he was not a legend in his own time, Robert Burns left a legacy which has touched Scotland and indeed people in countries all over the world. On his birthday, 25th January, Scots all over the world celebrate with a Burns Supper where they address the haggis, the ladies and, of course, whisky. Such a celebration of his life, work and all of the things he loved in life would surely make Robert Burns proud today.

We are proud to count the Burns Malt, the Burns Blend and a small gift pack of whiskies as part of our product range. The World Burns Federation granted us lifetime patronage of their organisation in 2000, and the creation of these whiskies is our most fitting tribute to Scotland’s National Poet, given that whisky was one of the things in life he enjoyed the most. We are proud to be able to honour him in this way and would invite you to click on the link below in order to find out more about the man himself or on the link to the Robert Burns Collection available from Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd!

A hidden history

In the early 19th century, there were more than 50 whisky distilleries on Arran, most of them illegal and carefully hidden from the eyes of the taxmen. The Island’s malt whisky was shipped to the mainland and enjoyed by the gentry, who regularly ‘took the Arran waters’. It was acclaimed at the time as the best in Scotland – only rivalled by those from the ‘Glen of Livet’.

The perfect location, naturally

Arran is both beautiful and unique. With its mountains, lowlands, glens, lochs and royal castles, it has all the scenery of Scotland and affectionately known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’.

The Distillery was opened in 1995, at Lochranza, in the north of the Island. During the official opening ceremony, two golden eagles, who live on the mountain behind the Distillery provided a fly past as a ‘thank you’ for halting building work for several weeks to allow them to hatch their chicks. On a warm summer’s day they can still be found, floating high on the thermal currents, before dropping like a stone, hunting their quarry.

Lochranza in Arran really is perfect location for producing the perfect Malt. Here’s why:

The area is home to the purest water in all of Scotland – water that’s been cleansed by granite and softened by peat as it slowly meanders from the mountaintops into nearby Loch na Davie

Arran enjoys a warm microclimate – the atmosphere of sea breezes and clear mountain air, together with the warm flow of the Gulf Stream is ideal for the speedy maturation of single malts

The Island has a reputation for producing the highest quality whisky

A contemporary Whisky. A traditional distillation

They only use the traditional methods of distilling, with wooden washbacks and copper stills, designed to their exact specification. They don’t use peat in the production process or caramel for artificial colouring – unlike many other distilleries. And all their Single Malts are non-chillfiltered, which means they’re natural in pigment and exactly the way whisky should be!