The story of this delicious Single Malt Scotch Whisky Liqueur, "Cock o' the North", is another chapter in the history of the Gordons, one of the great clan-families of Scotland, and their involvement in Scotch whisky making.
Originally based in the Borders of Scotland, the Gordons rose to power through their support for Robert the Bruce and were granted land by him in the North East of Scotland.
The head, or Chief, of the Clan was created Lord Gordon in 1436, Earl of Huntly in 1449, Marquis of Huntly in 1599 and Duke of Gordon in 1684. The family became so famous and powerful in the 16th century that the Chief was, and still is, known as the Cock o' the North.
The Gordons are today renowned world-wide for their historical contributions in the fields of battle, politics, and literature.
The Gordon estates stretched from Deeside to Speyside, encompassing lands and rivers where many of the most famous Scotch whisky distilleries are to be found. The present Marquis of Huntly, as well as being the Cock o' the North, also holds the titles of Lord Glenlivet and Lord Strathavon, named after the two famous glens in the heart of Speyside's whisky country.
It was a previous Chief of Clan Gordon, and Cock o' the North, the 5th Duke of Gordon, who in 1823 sponsored an Act of Parliament, which legalised the distilling of whisky in the Highlands of Scotland.
Knowing very well that his tenants in Strathavon and Glenlivet could not be prevented from distilling whisky, the Duke persuaded the government that it was better to legalise the activity and collect the taxes.
As soon as the Act was passed, the Duke encouraged one of his tenants, George Smith, to take advantage of the new law to produce whisky legally. George Smith started the first licensed distillery in Glenlivet in 1824. In 1858, the Duke provided George Smith with the land on which the present day Glenlivet distillery is sited.
The Gordon Estates also included land at Glentromie on the upper reaches of the River Spey. It is here that the Speyside Distillery produces the single malt whisky from which is one of the few remaining independent, family run Scotch whisky distilleries.
The Cock o' the North's great-grandson, George Gordon (1808 - 1875) lived there before the distillery was built.
The Blaeberry (Gaelic name: Fraochan - that which grows among the heather) is to be found throughout the Highlands of Scotland and is a popular fruit with many uses. Historically, many Highlanders, including the Gordons, have used Blaeberry jelly to mix with whisky to create a 'house brew' in the same way as cooks concoct special recipes.
As well as its delicate flavour, Blaeberry has a number of beneficial healing properties. The Blaeberry in Cock o' the North is extracted from the fruit itself. The 'Black Bottle' is the traditional fortified wine bottle often re-used by thrifty Highlanders for their own home-made whisky drinks.
Cock o' the North is, essentially, a mixture of a fine Speyside Single Malt Whisky and the fruit of the Blaeberry, with a special ingredient added which is known only to The Marquis of Huntly and his son, The Earl of Aboyne. The result is just as sensuously delicious today as it was generations ago, whether drunk straight, as a hot toddy, or poured over ice.
As Lord Huntly says: "When it comes to whisky liqueurs there's none can compare..."
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