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 six major companies bringing services to all corners of the country until they merged with the British network in 1921.
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”
The Highland Railway
Constructed piecemeal from a number of smaller branch lines, the network that emerged as the Highland Railway in 1865 eventually spread its rails out from Inverness to connect to the east, west and north coasts of Scotland, with a crucial link heading south as far as Perth.
Rails were built on very challenging terrain, where steep inclines and inclement weather would challenge the sturdy engines that ran along the routes. The cold and windy pass of Druim Uachdair near Dalwhinnie remains the highest point in the British rail network even today.
Pushing through the challenges, trains enabled rapid trade to flow south from the Highlands, allowing livestock, raw materials and, of course; whisky, to find their way to markets. At the same time, passengers who were eager to experience the land of Sir Walter Scott were able to make their way north in relative comfort.
In its heyday, the Highland railway was served by a variety of 4-4-0 locomotives, designed by the engineer David Jones. One of these, the ‘Strath’ class, features as the locomotive pictured on the bottle, beautifully painted by Robin Barnes.
The ‘Jones Goods’ class was also brought onto the Highland Railway for heavier goods hauling, notable as being the introduction of the heavier 4-6-0 class to the British Isles. Jones Goods 103 now resides at Glasgow Riverside museum; the last extant locomotive of the Highland Railway.
Award Winning Whiskies
Taking away not just one, but four, prestigious industry awards at the 2018 International Wine & Spirit Competition, 2018 Independent Bottlers Challenge and 2019 Spirits Business’ Luxury Masters for the first two releases in their Scottish Folklore inspired whisky series, Edinburgh based Scottish whisky broker and independent bottler Cask 88 have quickly gained recognition for groundbreaking expressions that are in a league of their own.
Where our Scottish Folklore Series took inspiration from the myths and legends that shaped Scotland’s culture, our Scotch Express series looks at the historic modernisations that brought Scotland’s culture to the world.
“Cask 88 has become known around the world for delivering award winning single malt expressions, including three gold medals in 2018, and another in 2019”.
Railway Artist Robin Barnes.
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.
Robin Barnes painted the images for our first ‘Highland Railway’ bottling, and now returns to do the same for the North British.
Robin has once again shown a keen eye for engineering perfection, and captured wonderful scenes in watercolour. The bottle label shows off the power of the ‘H’ Class, chosen by the NBR to operate on its key Northern route. Our print advertising artwork shows the full span of the iconic Forth Bridge, every strut familiar to engineering-minded Scots – and in the foreground there chugs the less glamorous shape of Auld Reekie, a ferry that used to take NBR passengers over the Firth of Forth before the bridge was constructed.
We were delighted to once again have Robin on board for the project, as he has a wonderful talent for capturing the atmosphere of these scenes from Scottish rail and engineering history. We look forward to him picking up his brush again!
“Artistically, in relation to transportation generally, his preference is to tackle the more unusual and
less-often illustrated subjects”.
The Fettercairn Distillery
Along the rugged east coast of Scotland, on great bridges over the Forth, and then the Tay, as you head north, the old North British tracks are still in service today. The rails connecting Edinburgh with Aberdeen do not pass through whisky country – most of Scotland’s distilling happens further to the north or west, but there is one notable exception to this.
Founded in 1825, the Fettercairn distillery predates the North British railway. From a pleasant green dell in the Eastern foothills of the Cairngorms, about halfway between Dundee and Aberdeen, it would have witnessed the construction of the tracks and the first trains racing for The North. New connections are always beneficial to a distillery, and Fettercairn has continued distilling through to the modern era, making a denser, nuttier style of whisky that is very distinctive.
A powerful dram, Fettercairn – and it seems to suit the powerful NBR H Class on the bottle. We’ve chosen an ex-bourbon Hogshead cask of Fettercairn that showcases the distillery style in a beautifully straightforward way. 12 years of maturation have been kind and created a malt that is rich, resonant and memorable.
Toast the distillers and civil engineers of the past with a dram of this whisky; for they have made the things that endure.