Spirit of the Coquet, Rothbury
Black Rory is a premium unique blend of whisky with a very high malt content, beautiful amber glow and a hint of peat.
The recipe is unique to Coquet Whisky and was inspired by the high hills of Northumberland. The whisky is named after the famous smuggler ‘ Black Rory’, who roamed the hills and valley of Upper Coquetdale, in the early nineteenth century. The Coquet Valley’s inaccessible nature made it ideal ground for smugglers to produce duty-free whisky at what must be some of Britain’s most illicit stills ever to be found.
Coquet Whisky can be purchased as 70cl, 20cl and miniature bottles. Gift sets are also available.
Tales of Smuggling in Upper Coquetdale
Where the Rowhope Burn enters the Coquet, a large whinstone rock may be noticed on the North Bank. Close to this rock, there formerly stood a public house called Slyme-foot, which, during the eighteenth century, was the winter resort of all the neighbouring sheep farmers, where they spent their time in gambling and drinking, whilst their shepherds came every day to receive orders and carry news.
The whisky at Slyme-foot was innocent of duty, being the product of illicit distilleries, then so numerous amongst the hills of Upper Coquet. This contraband traffic was carried on in so bold and daring a manner, that the barley required for the manufacture of this ‘real mountain dew’ was carted in open daylight from the lower parts of the valley, and the peats were cut in close vicinity to the ‘still’, without an attempt at concealment, the border smuggler deeming the inaccessibility of his retreat quite a sufficient safeguard against a visit from the ‘gauger’. One of the most notorious of these smugglers was named ‘Rory’. The remains of ‘Rory’s still’ are yet to be seen at the ‘hare Cleughs’, a secluded glen below Davidson’s Linn on the Usway Burn. Rory had other ‘stills’, including Rowhope, Carlcroft, Saugh Rig, Kitty’s Walls and Blindburn. So well concealed was the latter, that on no less than four occasions, the gaugers, although within 200 yards of the spot, failed to find it. At that time, ‘innocent whisky’ was sold by the smugglers, up and down the whole valley, who carried with them ‘grey hens’ of duty free whisky.
There were many narrow escapes both the buyer and the seller had from falling into the hands of the excise men, who were generally mounted and armed with cutlass and pistols. It was a perilous undertaking for the gauger to perform the duties of his office, especially in the upper reaches of the Coquet. There was a certain worthy limb of the law, who for several years was stationed at Harbottle – and with whom, by the way the smugglers were on the best of terms. For the lonely excise man had a weakness for peat-flavoured whisky – that one of the most frequent entries in his official diary was the pithy remark ‘stopp’d wi’witters’.