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The Rhythm and Booze with Felipe Schrieberg

3 Scotch Whisky Ghost Stories (And the Whiskies That Go With Them)

Editor: This article was first published on Forbes on 31/10/2017. Find the original article here


Felipe Schrieberg

Felipe is an award-winning London-based whisky writer, tastings host, drinks competitions judge, and author. He is also a musician and co-founder of The Rhythm and Booze Project, a duo that fuses live music and whisky through gigs, tasting events and multimedia.

Follow Felipe on Twitter, Linkedin or his website.


Ghost are scary. Witches are scary. Little kids asking for candy nonstop is scary. With Halloween now upon us, there's no better way to tell a good scary story, or to soothe any rattled nerves, than with a whisky in hand.

Casks and worker at the Glendronach distillery, dressed in red.


As it so happens, whisky distilleries in Scotland have their fair share of spooky ghost stories. Thrill to this selection, along with a recommended whisky that’s worth trying from the haunted distillery.

The Glenrothes – Byeway the distillery ghost

If you visit the Glenrothes distillery in Speyside, it's customary to "toast to the ghost." In this case, you're celebrating the memory of Biawe ‘Byeway’ Makalaga. He was rescued from famine-plagued Matabeleland (that’s in Zimbabwe) by Major James Grant, owner of the Glen Grant Distillery, and taken to Scotland where he served as the Major’s page boy and then butler.

Byeway ended up outliving the major by 40 years, and had a quiet life until his death in 1972. He was known as an avid fan of the local football club, Rothes FC, and was awarded a complimentary seat for life, as well as a cup of tea at halftime.

A few years later, in 1979, reports came from the Glenrothes distillery of an old man with dark skin and a scraggly beard emerging during the evening and night shifts. As a result, Cedric Wilson, a professor of pharmacology and amateur paranormal investigator, came over to examine the situation and declared that Byeway’s spirit was disturbed by the installation of new whisky stills.

Wilson then managed to locate Byeway’s grave and ‘speak’ with him, claiming that the issue had been settled amicably.

Byeway’s ghost hasn’t been seen since.

Whisky of choice: The Glenrothes 1995. A smooth, rich whisky that is more than classy enough to give a toast to Byeway’s ghost.

Jura – Jura’s two ghosts

The remote island of Jura, off Scotland's west coast and literally a few feet from Islay, has not one but two whisky-related ghosts. The first was responsible for the construction of a new distillery on the island. Laird Archibald Campbell owned the island and its band distillation. Nearly 30 years later, he was awakened in the middle of the night by the ghost of an angry old woman hovering over his head.

She was furious that he had outlawed the production of whisky, and thoroughly berated him. The laird was so terrified that he built a new distillery in 1810. Apparently to this day, a bottle of whisky is buried at the old distillery site to appease the old woman’s ghostly wrath.

Jura’s second ghost story is more recent. Elvis the cat, a local feline, caught a picture of a ghostly woman on his cat cam that was being used as a promotional tool for the distillery. An actual (or so she says) psychic, Joan Charles, was then called to the island to investigate.

She stayed in the distillery lodge and sensed the presence of someone who was strong, authoritative and kind. She claimed the ghost’s name was Elizabeth Quinn. As it turns out, then-distillery manager Willie Cochrane confirmed that there had been a schoolteacher named Elizabeth who once lived on the island.

On another occasion, Jura brand ambassador Willie Tait once heard a disembodied voice late at night in the lodge telling him "the children are alright." So at least it seems to be a friendly ghost.

Whisky of choice: The appropriately named Jura Superstition is the ideal Halloween tipple. Slightly smoked, caramel thickness, and a lot of malty goodness that shines through on the tongue.

Glendronach – The Spanish Ghost

Another Speyside distillery, Glendronach imported a large amount of Spanish Oloroso sherry casks in the 1970s. Apparently, while one of the cask shipments was being unloaded, a stowaway was spotted escaping from an empty cask, dressed in scarlet and black, wearing a full mantilla.

She was described as small and dark. Since then, there have been numerous sightings of a beautiful, exotic woman around different parts of the distillery, with rustling skirts hinting her presence. Her favourite location, however, is rumoured to be the nearby Glen House, specifically the GlenDronach room, where she can take shelter from the Scottish cold. It’s said that it’s easier to sense her after a few whiskies, especially if you are a single man...

Whisky of choice: Glendronach has cemented itself as one of the great sherry-matured whiskies. Its Glendronach Cask Strength batches are always excellent. The sixth batch is punchy, fruity, rich, and so strong that you may very well start seeing things.

For more spooky stories, have a look at this collection from Scotchwhisky.com which includes these and a few more, and some other juicy ones in this article from The Scotsman.

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By Felipe Schrieberg

Felipe is a London-based whisky writer, musician, tastings host, drinks competitions judge, and author. He writes for internationally renowned publications such as Forbes, Whisky Magazine and The Whiskey Wash. He has been awarded the Icons of Whisky Communicator of the Year award at Whisky Magazine's 2022 World Whiskies Awards.

He is the co-founder of The Rhythm and Booze Project, a duo fusing live music and whisky through gigs, tasting events, and multimedia. His past projects encompass performances at the Edinburgh Fringe of the band's own show Two Guys, Three Drams which combined live blues with whisky tasting, and building the world's first bass drum made from an entire Scotch whisky cask with a barrel of Lagavulin.

He is also a judge for the World Whiskies Awards and The Independent Bottlers Challenge. Through his online tastings hosted at The Virtual Whisky Masterclass, he has welcomed over 3,000 guests across 250+ tasting events.

His first book, London Cocktails, is now available worldwide. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @schriebergfr, or at www.felipeschrieberg.com