The tale of ‘Whisky Galore’, which has been written as a book and twice made into a film, is a compelling one because it is based on true events; the beaching of the ship SS Politician in 1941 and the liberation of its distilled cargo by the islanders of Eriskay is an epic tale that was bound to find its way into popular culture.
However, the book Whisky Galore was written by Compton Mackenzie on another Hebridean island nearby, Barra, and it is there that a new distillery and visitor centre is set to open in 2025.
As Scottish Farmers’ Weekly reports, the Isle of Barra Distillers have been granted planning permission by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Council for the £12 million centre in the village of Eoligarry, just a mile and a half from the house where McKenzie wrote the book and also close to where scenes were shot for the original 1949 film.
Managing director of Isle of Barra Distillers Michael Morrison said one per cent of proceeds from whisky and gin sales will be reinvested into the local community, including the provision of affordable housing. He also said there was a potential for the distillery to become part of an extended Hebridean Whisky Trail.
Those interested in whisky cask investment may be inspired by this development, as it will help expand the range of whiskies available, distilleries to visit and maintain interest in historic and cultural stories connected with whisky, not least the SS Politician incident.
Weighing 8,000 tonnes, the SS Politician had sailed from Liverpool in February 1941 with 260,000 bottles of whisky on board, bound for Jamaica and New Orleans. It ran aground two days later and locals who took an estimated 24,000 bottles between them regarded this as salvage – as the cargo was by then in the sea – rather than stealing.
Famously, local customs officers took a very different view as no tax had been paid on the whisky, which led to many Hebridean folk hiding their bounty, although some were caught and prosecuted.