“Tis der Trrooote!”

Many visitors to Bruichladdich will have made the  acquaintance of the irrepressible and engaging Ruaraidh McLeod, one of life's great rascals and raconteurs -  a character larger than life itself - usually holding court in the distillery shop.

He had been unwell for several months, and last night he had a stroke and died here in the village of Bruichladdich. He was 92.

Ruaraidh was from Skye originally, and came to Islay after the war in which he  always claimed he had a clandestine role, but no one was ever quite sure what, but which involved the RAF. He also broadcasted in Gaelic on BBC radio. He worked at Bruichladdich as both a stillman and a mashman from 1962 until 1984, though he made frequent returns to distilling when the distillery was short of staff.

His tall stories always ended with his sincere affirmation that "It's the truth!", sounding more like "'tis der trrooote", and a rasping, shoulder-hunching, chuckle and a flash of his vivid, blue eyes. One never quite knew what  to believe, but one always listened avidly.

Ruaraidh put his long active life and good health (he bought himself a boat for his ninetieth birthday) down to a daily dram. Sadly his visits to the distillery had recently become ever more infrequent as his health deteriorated.

And Ruaraidh was the last man left who had tasted a mysterious, old bottle of whisky distilled at the Lochindaal Disitllery in neighbouring Port Charlotte which was unearthed  around about 1965 – the original Port Charlotte peated spirit to which our own PC series is an homage. Ruaraidh was the only man to ever taste both – a priceless moment of continuity.

Allan was to deliver him a Laddie 10 today; he would have liked that.  I can hear it now: "The best ever! 'tis der trrooote!"

Slainthe, Ruaraidh.

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