The second source of water is Islay spring water.
Sitting on the edge of Octomore farmland, our spring is protected by the small green shed nestled in the glen and is know affectionally as ‘the well of the true water’ or ‘Tobar an Uisge Fhìor’ in Islay Gaelic.
Although the spring is situated right by a small river, Abhainn Gearach, which again is a ‘peaty’ burn, it has no influence on the spring. The spring water percolates from deep underground through Gneiss rock (pronounced ‘nice’) 5-6km thick. The surrounding geology in the Rhinns of Islay is estimated to be 1.8 billion years old. Gneiss is metamorphic rock, changed over millennia by heat and pressure. In Islay there are two types all folded and sheared into each other, seemingly evidence of an ancient volcanic faultline which connects Islay to parts of North America, Greenland and The Baltic. [Masses more detail about the rocks here >]
The water itself has an undetermined length of time underground but is filtered up through this rock, producing beautiful crystal clear water. It has high levels of natural minerals and so it’s not surprising that this spring was once the source of Port Charlotte village – where residents were purported to live to a grand age in good health.
The spring water is used in two stages.
Firstly it is used within Ugly Betty combined with our grain spirit and our core botanicals – Islay spring water brought directly to the distillery from the spring by Farmer James Brown of Octomore.
Secondly, water from the well is used to reduce the strength of our spirit for bottling. This is done in our own bottling hall at the distillery.
Kevin Wiggins, a Rhinns resident himself and the man in charge of the water operations, says – “Always James’ water, has to be James’ water, wouldn’t be the same without it.”*
*This information was given within earshot of Farmer Brown at a local sheep sale.
Whatever Kevin’s biases may be, it is absolutely true that everywhere the gin goes, it’s taking that little bit extra of Islay with it, because of the spring water it is made with.
>> Here you can listen to James tell you the shortened version of the story of the well himself