Photographs capture essence of town’s whisky heritage

A Cathedral to Whisky: Iain McAlister, distillery manager and master distiller, tours the bonded warehouse at Glen Scotia Distillery where the sleeping casks quietly mature under his watchful eye. Photograph: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Document Scotland.
A Cathedral to Whisky: Iain McAlister, distillery manager and master distiller, tours the bonded warehouse at Glen Scotia Distillery where the sleeping casks quietly mature under his watchful eye. Photograph: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Document Scotland.

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A photographic exhibition capturing the essence of Campbeltown’s history and heritage has been unveiled as part of Glen Scotia Distillery’s Virtual Malts Festival 2021.

The distillery has collaborated with Document Scotland, a collective of three Scottish documentary photographers, to shine a spotlight on the town’s whisky-making legacy.

Sophie Gerrard, Colin McPherson and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert have captured modern-day photographs of Campbeltown by exploring the themes of people, place and process.

Combined with historic photography of the distillery and the region, these captivating images from the past and the present are featured in an interactive online gallery.

Iain McAlister, distillery manager and master distiller at Glen Scotia, said: ‘Since 1832, Glen Scotia has been shaped by the people, time and events, as well as the history of Campbeltown itself, and this remarkable Document Scotland photographic exhibition brings our unique whisky history and heritage to life.

‘Our single malt reflects centuries of craftsmanship and experience associated with the region and is renowned for its Campbeltown character.’

Using her environmental portraiture, Sophie focused on the people who can tell the story of whisky in Campbeltown; from those who work at Glen Scotia to the farmer who collects the draff to feed his cattle as well as those descended from the ‘big three’ whisky families of history.

She said: ‘As a photographer I’m always interested in the people behind the story and for this project I turned to the individuals who make this whisky so special.

‘Each character has an individual story and a distinct connection to the past and the future of whisky in Campbeltown.’

Colin captured the theme of place around Campbeltown, taking inspiration from the connections between the town today and its past.

He looked for remnants of the ‘Whiskyopolis’ boomtown of old and set these in the context of modern-day Campbeltown.

‘Campbeltown has a special connection with whisky distilling, and it was fascinating to see so many traces of ‘Whiskyopolis’, from disused warehouses, old gates and fences to buildings which are now used for other purposes,’ Colin said.

‘There is still a distinctive atmosphere in Campbeltown; one which evokes the past. A lot of this comes from the Glen Scotia Distillery, which is a living and breathing reminder of the town’s heritage but one which is very important to its status today and for the future.’

Jeremy captured the daily lives of Glen Scotia employees and the patient process of distilling spirit to fill into casks.

His photographs illustrate the passion and human touch of the men and women for their craft, their immediate environment, the spirit and the all-important casks, which all bring unique ingredients, vital elements and distinctive flavour to the final whiskies.

Jeremy said: ‘As photographers we are passionate about our craft, waiting for the right light, looking for the perfect angle and bringing years of experience to every photograph we take, even though it may only be a fleeting moment we capture.

‘This is mirrored at Glen Scotia and we found a perfect partner in the distillery, where Iain McAlister and his team bring passion and years of experience to their craft, to create exquisite single malts.

‘This collaboration is a meeting of minds between two teams of modern Scottish craftspeople, aware of their place in contemporary Scotland, but also of the history that has gone before them.’

To view the full photography exhibition, visit www.glenscotia.com