Abhainn Dearg distillery

Abhainn Dearg Whisky

Abhainn Dearg has been Scotland’s westernmost distillery since it was founded in 2008. Abhainn Dearg, which means something like “red river”, is located in the Outer Hebrides, on the Isle of Harris and Lewis. Abhainn Dearg Distillery was founded and owned by Mark Tayburn, a native of the Isle of Lewis.

House Style

The basic character of the Abhainn Dearg brand differs significantly from the usual sweet and fruity new brands from other young distilleries. It has a herb-bitter base note that is strongly reminiscent of pine needles and root vegetables. There are also maritime notes of mussels and wet tea kelp. These are complemented by fruit and vanilla aromas from the respective barrels.


How is Abhainn Dearg whisky produced? The distillery itself is located in the main building of an old fish farm, and other buildings, for example for a visitor center, are still being worked on. The building itself is extremely inconspicuous, but it has it all. The distillery room, which is central to whisky production, houses 7,000 liters of washbacks and two 2,000 liters of stainless steel mashtuns. In this respect, Abhainn Dearg is not that different from other micro distilleries. What Abhainn Dearg really does differently is the shape of the stills. The owner did not choose classic pot stills from Forsyths, but built them himself. The systems seem almost bizarre, like from the alchemist’s laboratory in a fantastic film. The Hebridean island of Lewis has a long history of black distillery. In fact, owner Mark Tayburn states that Abhainn Dearg’s stills are modeled on those of a pre-existing illegal whisky still in the place. The main difference is that Abhainn Dearg’s stills are larger and are heated by steam instead of wood. One can argue about the quality of the raw brandy from these stills.

In addition to the steam-heated stills, there is also a special gem in Abhainn Dearg. An old original still from an ancient, illegal distillery. Tayburn reports that an anonymous donor left the stillness one night in front of the entrance to the still. Today it is certified for legal use. From time to time Abhainn Dearg whisky is distilled in the same way as the smugglers of past centuries. The still holds only 80 liters, as a very special new make it is subsequently filled exclusively in Oloroso Sherry Casks. We are excited to see what will come out of it.

Around 90% of Abhainn Dearg’s production goes to ex-bourbon casks. The remaining 10% are bottled in sherry, red wine, white wine, Madeira and fresh oak barrels. This should give the distillery the opportunity to bring interesting whiskies onto the market in the future. Only 120 hectoliters are produced annually. Tayburn states that there are no plans to expand production significantly in the next few years. Abhainn Dearg Single Malt Whisky should be a limited malt and should not least satisfy local demand in the Outer Hebrides. Mark Tayburn is and remains a true native of the Isle of Lewis and so is his whisky.


The Abhainn Dearg distillery was founded in 2008 and distilled the first whisky in the same year. Even before the first single malt, the distillery released a 3-month-old New Make matured in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks. The young malt received mixed criticism. In 2011 single malt whisky was bottled and sold for the first time after three years of maturity. At that time, 2,011 bottles were bottled and published in a special edition by the three-year-old Abhainn Dearg Single Malt. This release also had to deal with mixed reviews. In 2014 Abainn Dearg got company on the island in the southern part of Harris. There the Harris Distillery was built in the coastal town of Tarbert. In December 2018 the distillery bottled its first 10 year old single malt.

Abhainn Dearg factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Abhainn Dearg Highlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 2007 - Present Malt Abhainn Dearg Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Mark 'Marko' Tayburn Independent

Can I tour Abhainn Dearg?

Yes Abhainn Dearg distillery is tourable. On Trip Advisor the distillery has been rated as excellent by 62 of 118 tours to date. This gives Abhainn Dearg an overall rating of 4.0

Latest reviews

Brilliant Tour by Dennis

A fantastic little distillery with a wonderful story. We were lucky enough to book a tour on a Monday morning. The tour guide Laura was excellent. Informative, friendly and helpful. As a whisky / single malt lover this is a real must if you share that passion.

What an Experience! by Mature Years Traveller

We expected something a little different - and we’re not to be disappointed!Whisky making as it used to be; raw, basic & honest. Our host Marko is passionate about his work and it shows in the finished product - in my opinion at least.

Fascinating by Charles J

Although at this point in time the distillery is unable to operate due to the fact that they are awaiting anImportant part for the second still, the tour is very worthwhile. This is a small distillery and it’s interestingto see how it all works on a smaller scale. The whisky itself is extremely good but, by the very nature of being a small producer, rather expensive.You do get two tasting shots which you can take away. Very handy for those who are driving.

Rating Reviews
Excellent 62
Very good 39
Average 7
Poor 4
Terrible 6