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Anyone who traces the Scottish history would surely meet the names, "Duncan Forbes of Culloden" and "Ferintosh". Though the oldest literature on Scottish whisky is the royal financial report (1494), which is now kept in General Register House, Ferintosh is the oldest whisky distillery which can be identified in existing literatures. Many historians and whisky journalists wrote about Ferintosh but most information is still in a veil.

Tolquhoun Castle
Culloden House

The first Duncan Forbes of Culloden was born to John, the brother of William Forbes who is the 7th Laird of Tolquhoun Castle in Aberdeenshire, and Elizabeth.
He successively held provost of Inverness and owned huge estate in Culloden (1626). Later on, he also owned lands in Ferintosh and his son, John (2nd) acquired to distill liquor "Aqua vitae". John's son was also named Duncan (3rd; the grandson of 1st Duncan) and it was he who made "Aqua vitae" (It is called "Whisky", nowadays), which was especially distilled in Ferintosh, more popular with its quality in whole Scotland. In 1760, Forbes enlarged the distillery and built additional three distilleries in Ferintosh with great advance.
However, the revenue tighten the restriction in 1784 and the privilege that Forbes were granted to distill whisky since 1689 was rescinded to meet others complaint. Later, the distillery of Forbes was closed in 1785 with the introduction of new excise regulation. It was when Arthur, 7th Laird, was about 45 years old.

Duncan Forbes 1st Laird
John Forbes 2nd Laird

Duncan Forbes 3th Laird
Arthur Forbes 7th Laird

The estate that the family of Forbes owned in Ferintosh was about 6500 acre, situated east of Conon Bridge in Black Isle. The first distillery stood in Ryefield, which had been main distillery among the ones family owned as it had started to operate before 1689. Additional distilleries, 2nd to 4th ones, all stood in Gallow Hill and Mulchaich near Ryefield. Gallow Hill is 1 mile to the southern east from Ryefield and it is now used as a farm. There still remain an L-shaped basis and two square bases which are foundations of the distillery. Mulchaich is 1 mile to east from Ryefield, having the house that was owned by the sister of Duncan 15th. In the field near Mulchaich, there remain three foundations of the distillery, which make us imagine how big the building used to be. The last one is also in Mulchaich and now it is used as a farm. It can be easily imagined that large-scaled distillery used to stand there.

Gallowhill of Ferintosh
Mulchaich of Ferintosh

Ferintosh with great fame... Despite the great honor, why did it have to be closed? Was that only because the Custom Duty was revoked? It is hard to know what was truly behind the closing. Scottish national poet, Robert Burns, who was a great admirer of whisky, also showed his deep sorrow to the closing of Ferintosh distillery.

Ryefield House
Ryefield House

Wall Garden

In Ryefield today, there stands a house which Arthur, the 7th Laird, built in 1771 and Mr. & Mrs. Forbes 15th are living there. The house has huge garden with trees over 100 years-old and wall garden and in the forest of the garden, buildings of Ferintosh distillery era (17th- century) still remain. From the backyard of the main house, you can see the Cromarty Firth, Ben Wyvis at a height of 1045m and cityscape of Dingwall.

The structure of the 17th century
The structure of the 17th century

The back garden of the main building
The view of Ben Wyvis

"Ferintosh" used to be a name for parish but I could not find that name on any maps of mine except the one of 1801. However, when I visited the place for the first time and met the sign, "Ferintosh", I felt that someone was calling me with their hand waving; "Hey, here we are!" It must be the ancient distillers. And the sign was pointing at "Ryefield".

The signpost of Ferintosh
Woods of Ryefield

I would like to give my great appreciation to Mr. Duncan Forbes, who always welcomed me in spite of the repeated researches and showed me around the place where people can hardly visited. I am also much honored that I have such a wonderful friend in Ferintosh. I brought flowers from Japan as a proof of goodwill and now I am wishing my dream that the flowers bloom all over Ferintosh every year will come true.

Other Distilleries beside Ferintosh

"Ferintosh" used to be a name for parish, situated east of Conon Bridge in Black Isle. It was said that the estate of the family of Forbes was 6500 acre. There were 29 small distilleries in Black Isle in 18th century and even after the closing of Forbes' distillery, Taynahinch (1814 - 1828), Braelangwell (1826 - 1828) and some others had continued to distill whisky as the Ferintosh whisky under the fame of Forbes. However, all were gone in the 1840's. Some farm houses are using the name, "Ferintosh", to leave the name in our time. At that time, Ferintosh area meant whole Black Isle in the sense of place for distilling whisky. Later, Ferintosh distillery which is famous as Ben Wyvis was founded in 1879 in Dingswall.

Braelangwell Farm
Ferintosh(Ben Wyvis)Established In1879

With many thanks: Duncan Forbes (15th Laird)
Reference: Michael S. Moss and John R. Hume "The Making of Scotch Whisky", Culloden House Hotel "The Forbes Family History", Misaco Udo "The Scottish Whisky Distilleries"
Additional Report
It was my fifth years to visit Ferintosh since I had visited there for the first time. Duncan has been a good friend of mine, and he always prepares new information for my visit. Since my first visit, he must look into and learn the history of his family. He found three foundations where the Forbes had built distilleries in 1760s from his wide property. Duncan and I spent three years to take photographs of those foundations.
We visited one of the foundations again, called Mulchaich, to take photographs of the foundation which Duncan had newly found. The foundation stands on a slope and it has three-tiered floors. The gap of floors must have had an important meaning. I had already taken some more pictures of foundations before, so there must have been three buildings in that area. It can be presumed that this distillery was relatively large compared to the ordinary distillery size of that time.

Mulchaich three-tiered floors(from side)
Mulchaich three-tiered floors(from top)

To be honest, I had another purpose for this visit. In the end of last year, Duncan gave me a surprising present. He told me that he had found a bottle of that time (Probably from 1700s). If this was true, it was a great finding as information on Ferintosh was very limited. His news made me excited, and my mind flew to Ferintosh.

The structure of the 17th century
The structure of the 17th century

The bottle was found in a house of Duncan's overseas relative, so unfortunately, it had not arrived at Ferintosh yet. I took a picture of a copy of the bottle. I have not received an answer on the bottle size, but you can see the letters, "CULLODEN" at the center of circle glass plate. This is because Culloden was the base of Duncan Forbes.
Sadaaki(Teimei) Horiuchi

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