The Scotch Whisky Express

5th Release: Caledonian Railway

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It became possible to travel by rail from London through to Scotland by the late 1840s, and a train from the south by both West and East Coast routes would come to be known as a ‘Scotch Express,’Perhaps the most famous began running to Edinburgh in 1862, although it was not until 1924 it officially received the title ‘Flying Scotsman’. The early trains at first did not run to fast schedules, and it was only towards the end of the 19th century the term ‘Express’ could properly be applied.

Regardless of how quickly they got there, the new influx of visitors to Scotland helped to bring about a great expansion of the Scottish railways, with five major companies bringing services to all corners of the country until they merged with the British network in 1923.

Each bottle in the Scotch Express series pays tribute to a classic Scottish railway operator, with beautiful artwork by Robin Barnes bringing new life to the locomotives that once ran these rails. Our whiskies are sourced from distilleries along the routes – the expansion of rail having brought new connections to these Scottish industries, and opened them up to the world.

“These bottles celebrate the routes that brought people and whisky together”


We have already mentioned the Caledonian Railway in passing. Our second release in the Scotch Express series was of their main rival, the North British Railway – and we described the enmity that burned between these two Victorian companies. Now, with the fifth and final bottle we can balance the scales and tell the story of the diva-esque Caledonian.

Glasgow based, the Caledonian Railway was founded off the back of a successful west-coast passenger connection to Carlisle. Over the course of its life, the Caledonian made aggressive territorial grabs to extend its reach into the territories of the North British and Glasgow & Southwestern Railways. Much revenue was generated from coal haulage, but the CR wanted to be Scotland’s pre-eminent mode of travel for well-to-do passengers, and spent lavishly in order to attract commuters and tourists to its services.

The approach paid off, and the CR came to be seen as the grandest of Scotland’s railways, especially when played against the staid and plodding reputation of the NBR. In all things the CR was a beautiful and attention grabbing railway, with stylish station architecture, grand railway hotels, shining blue locomotives, lusciously printed marketing and a cheeky grab for Scotland’s Royal coat of Arms to use as their own personal symbol.

The most iconic of the Caledonian’s express engines was the 4-6-0 class 903 ‘Cardean’, which is heading south to Carlisle on our label, along one of the two routes that linked Scottish to English railways – and served as the main battleground between the Caledonian and the North British railways.


A 1940s childhood passed within sight and sound of a busy main-line railway on which every train was hauled by a steam locomotive, many of them bearing names to grip the youthful imagination – Golden Eagle, Royal Lancer, Sayajirao, Irish Elegance, Jingling Geordie and Wizard of the Moor – led inevitably to a fascination with trains and railways, which over time broadened into a wider interest in other forms of transport too, on the sea and in the air.
Without Robin’s artwork, this series would not exist. He has captured iconic locomotives in highly detailed watercolour on the bottles, and scenes of the railways in their wider Scottish context for our magazine advertising.

The Locomotive chosen by Robin to properly convey the grand majesty of the Caledonian Railway is one of John F. McIntosh’s most recognisable designs. The 903 class were all affectionately known as ‘Cardeans’ after the country estate of one of the railway’s directors, even though only one of the 5 locomotives in this class ever received a name.
A powerful 4-6-0 express passenger locomotive with 6f6in driving wheels, class 903s ran the most visible routes for the Caledonian, where strong marketing was key. This large locomotive was a magnificent sight, especially when painted up in regal Caledonian blue. Edinburgh/Glasgow/Aberdeen/Carlisle – these were the destinations for a Cardean – a locomotive that would draw a crowd of excited onlookers onto the platform to watch it depart.


Built on the banks of the rapid River Teith near the Highland town of Doune in 1785, the Adelphi weaving mill was one of the glowing embers that started the full fire of the Industrial revolution. Using the largest millwheels in Europe for power, the mill brought humming life to the local community, constantly innovating to stay at the top of its game.
The mill only ceased to function as a textile mill in 1965, and was almost immediately transformed into a whisky distillery – which is now the beloved Deanston distillery, known for long fermentations and slow distillations, giving a very full-flavoured whisky, with a substantial waxy body and long finish.

The town of Doune was served by the Caledonian railway from 1880 until 1965, with the station being a beautiful example of Caledonian railway style… until its demolition in 1968. Sadly, this means that though the Adelphi mill and the Caledonian railway were contemporaries of one another, both drivers and products of the bold new industrial age; the Deanston distillery was founded too late. The last mournful whistle of the final Caledonian service on the Dunblane, Doune and Callander Railway died away before the comforting rumble of scotch whisky stills had started up.

Raise a glass of Deanston whisky, then, to the spirit of entrepreneurship and flashy Victorian marketing of the Caledonian Railway – now sadly silent. Well… not entirely silent. A four mile section of the Caledonian Railway between Brechin and the Bridge of Dun has been revived by volunteers, and we took a classic Scottish puggie for a spin to celebrate the release of the last bottle in this wonderful series.

Watch Our Whisky Tasting on the Caledonian Railway Here!

Caledonian Railway

Distillery: Deanston
Type: Highland
Aged: 15 years
Cask type: Refill Ex Bourbon
Distilled: 2006
Bottled: 2021
Bottle size: 70cl
ABV: 46.0 % Vol


Tasting Notes


Very fragrant on the nose, leading with gorse flowers and pineapple syrup. There’s a lovely base note of ginger biscuits and a soft touch of white pepper.


The whisky is much drier than the nose suggests, with oaky and tannic notes at the fore. Bitter orange marmalade takes over and does the heavy lifting, supported by a scaffold of beeswax. The finish lingers with the sweetness of dried pear, and a prickle of black pepper.

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The Scotch Express Series: The Caledonian Railway is now shipping. The fifth release from the popular series will be another hightly limited release. Reserve your bottle today while supplies last.