It’s always great to hear a client say the magical words “we need you to go photograph a whisky distillery…”. Poetry to my ears as a Scottish photographer. They say that whisky is for sharing, so below I share with you a few photographs from a couple of fairly recent whisky industry assignments.
As a Scotsman it is easy to know the names of various single malt whiskies, to know the brands and see the adverts. They proliferate in magazines, and online in social media. A lot of them become household names.
And that’s the beauty of being an assignment photographer in Scotland, the camera acting as a passport to locations you may never otherwise get access to. As I mentioned previously this job can be about the access you get.
I’d been to many whisky distilleries over the years to photograph, but never to a whisky bottling hall. So, when an American newspaper client called to ask me to visit Ardnamurchan distillery‘s bottling hall, or rather their parent company Adelphi Distillery (and bottling) I was thrilled. Arriving there it wasn’t as I imagined, I had expected rows and rows of bottles, all clinking together, big conveyor belts. But no, it is an independent bottler, and as such the bottles were filled by hand, four at a time. It’s an art and a craft for some of these distilleries, and their bottling. But none the less, fascinating to see and a privilege to have a look around, chat with the workers, and to smell the whisky in the air emanating from the casks on the racks.
Likewise, for a UK newspaper editorial client, when they sent me out to the Morvern peninsula in Scotland, to photograph the Nc’nean distilery which produces small batch organic single malt whisky. I’d seen the single malt distillery name and their distinctive bottles many times, but had no idea where the distillery was. I was soon to find out it was remote…take the ferry, then across the hills, along a single track road in the horizontal rain scary as hell, past the deer, and near where the eagles were flying. And that isn’t me being poetic, it was all fact, as I experienced on my two day visit.
Arriving early morning in the half light, I could smell the whisky in production. It’s the smell that lets you know you’ve arrived at the right location! And you could feel the cosy warm glow of the still room from outside inviting you in. In a Scottish winter the still room must be the place to work! Warm and inviting, toasty.
And then as the morning wore on, the light turned sublime as I headed out to photograph around the distillery grounds and the various features that help them attain Carbon net zero status for a whisky distillery. The beauty of this job is not only does your camera help you access places, but it gets you out, you see your own country, meet the people who make the products, who keep the country moving.