When, in 1817, Napoleonic war hero Captain ‘Blind’ Hugh Munro decided to found a distillery on his own estate of Teaninich Castle, near Alness in Ross and Cromarty, he might have expected the co-operation of his neighbours. After all, he had a deserved reputation for kindness and generosity towards the community. But whisky production was severely hampered in the early days because the Captain had to compete for barley supplies with the local illicit stills!
However, with the assistance of his brother, General John Munro, Teaninich was producing 30 times more malt by 1830. John was still a serving officer and was absent abroad regularly, so the distillery passed through various tenants before it fell into the hands of Scottish Malt Distillers in the early 1930s. Again, barley became in short supply with the onset of the second world war in 1939 and the distillery was mothballed for the duration.
Extensive modernisation and expansion took place in 1970 with new buildings and six additional stills aiding increased capacity to today’s 10.2m litres per annum. Another 30 years on sees the introduction of a unique mash filter press, doing away with the need for mash tuns. This produces an ultra-clear wort which lends a grassiness – likened to a Japanese green tea – to the finished spirit.
A further 16 new stills were installed by owners Diageo in 2013, housed alongside the older distillery. Much of the production has gone to blending, principally the Johnnie Walker range, Haig, Dimple and VAT 69, but a 10-year-old has been available in the Flora & Fauna series since 1992.
Those who have been fortunate enough to enjoy the distinctive Highland qualities of Teaninich report a warm apple crumble nose with nuts and spices; a palate made up of bread and nutty butter with further spice and a return to the crumbly pud with a compote of cooked fruits in the finish.