Today’s Whisky Whispers is a guest blog from our friend Iain Hector Ross – you may remember hearing about him when we met Bill in our last Meet the Team blog. Our R&B Co-founder and Iain are long-time friends, and Iain is connected to Raasay through his wife who calls the isle home.
Iain has a wealth of Raasay and Scots Gaelic knowledge, and we often call of him for those little-known facts. Here, he delves into the origins of the naming of Na Tùsairean Club, after all he suggested the name himself.
As we all know now, ‘Na Tùsairean’ means ‘The Pioneers’, and represents our pioneering spirit as we build a home for handcrafted whiskies of uncommon provenance, in this case – on Raasay. Iain explores the ‘tùs’ in Na Tùsairean…
Fine whisky is defined by Tùs
Tùs: source, origin, beginning
When you speak of the Tùs (pronounced: ‘toose’) of a whisky, you speak of its origin, the pure source, the primary element, the loadstone.
Tùs takes us beyond the here and now.
In the ancient Scottish Gaelic language, the name ‘Uisge Beatha’ ‘the water of life’ is the Tùs for the very word ‘whisky’, known and celebrated in every corner of the globe.
In time your senses will recognise the Tùs even if you can never describe it.
Bho Thùs: ‘From the source’
Raasay is the Tùs for R&B Distillers’ northern whisky venture.
You’ll find it all over the island. In the land, the people, and the island’s unique blend of water, mountain, and sky.
To the east you’ll find the Tùs at Hallaig lying beneath towering Dùn Cana. Here you can walk amongst the beautiful melancholic woods, slopes, and ruins that inspired the island poet Sorley Maclean’s famous epic poem. Here Sorley saw the generations of his people before him as vividly as the trees and abandoned stones that remain at Hallaig to this day.
To the rocky north the spectacular corkscrewing Calum’s Road carves its way through an unforgiving landscape. Here you will recognise the Tùs in the indomitable spirit of Calum Macleod, ‘Calum Arnais’. He tackled isolation with inspiration, a pick, and a shovel to build his road, inch by inch, from the home he loved to the outside world.
Now, to the south. The Tùs lies before you at Rubha Na Cloiche. Here at ‘headland of the stone’ the layers of ancient stone dwellings and field patterns speak of the generations upon generations who came to live their lives on Raasay. From Neolithic souterrains to Pictish brochs. Then Norse invaders built their Danish forts and became settlers who forged the Gaelic clans of MacSuain then MacLeod as lairds of the island in their fine castles. To the final layer of stones at Rubha na cloiche which tell of clan abandonment and the great emigration of the 19th Century.
And so to the west. Here the Tùs is the pure mountain water tumbling down the slopes of Dùn Cana. The unique blend of geology and landscape on the island charges the water of Raasay with elements of fire and iron, peat, and heather.
Combined, these will provide Raasay Distillery whiskies with an island Tùs like no other and a flavour by which, it is hoped, you will always recognise as unmistakably Raasay.
From the Tùs the water runs courses down to the Pictish fort Dùn Borodal to become the Raasay Distillery’s water source of Tobar na Bò Bàn or ‘Well of the White Cow’.The well was a welcome surprise living up to its association of representing fertility; now Raasay Distillery will want not for water to produce the very water of life.
– Iain Hector Ross