Sunday, 30 June 2013


This weekend we have being playing host to Sky Gooden, an arts writer from Canada. So what do you do when you have visitors? You take them to the seaside of course! After changing a flat tire on the Slug that is ....

This little sandy cove just north of Duffus is only half an hour or so away from The Glenfiddich Distillery and is full of rock pools and caves to explore. Sky had a wee paddle and Jon spent some time trying to become one with the rock....

With the sea air giving everyone an appetite next stop was Lossiemouth for a chip supper  before a mooch around Spiney Palace. Once home to the Bishops of Moray,it is now an impressive ruin. However its tumbledown magnificence is detracted somewhat by all the herras fencing around the more ruinous parts.

Friday, 28 June 2013


Crivens! Jings and help ma boab! Last night was Ceilidh night in Dufftown. A Ceilidh is a traditional Scottish social gathering, with music and dancing. They can be formal or wild, the more so the latter, the better. In fact the mark of a good ceilidh can be measured by the bruises on your upper arms the next morning.

In Dufftown the entertainment is provided by local musicians and singers who perform two or three numbers in turns as well as providing the backing for the dancing. Over the years the ceilidhs held over the summer months have proved to be popular with the resident artists and a good way to unwind after a hard day creating masterpieces.
Now there are good ceilidhs and not so good ceilidhs, and last night was shaping up to be a good one with a number of guides from our visitor centre at Glenfiddich in attendance to lead the dancing. Erick was enthusiastically introducted to the Dashing White Sargent and is currently recovering and showing signs of improvement in traction. However Daniel declined all offers even claiming not to know the Canadian barn dance and so remains a ceilidh dance virgin......but there is another one in two weeks time so we will get him up for a Strip the Willow yet! 

For myself the fun had to be cut short so I could collect Zhang Yunyao from Aberdeen airport at 10.30pm after his long flight in from Shanghai.

For the next three months Yunyao will be able to call the wonderfully named Gallowview his home. Quite why the house has such a macabre name could be down to the proximity of what is reputed to be an old hanging or gallows tree, which is situated some distance behind the property. In fact it is only really possible to see this tree from the bathroom window upstairs. Given that the view is obscured by the Dufftown to Keith railway station and that William Grant's second distillery The Balvenie lies directly to the front you might have though there were better candidates for the view? But still, what's in a name? With its open aspect and large windows it is one of the best houses we can offer to painters such as Yunyao for natural light.

The house was home to 2010 resident Mao Yan who was able to meet up with Yunyao prior to his departure to pass on some tips about Dufftown life. Of course there is always so much lost in translation and so this morning some time was spent explaining that we normally just order canvas stretcher frames from an on line art supplier and not as Mao Yan had told him from a little old cripple man who lives behind a church in Dufftown.....

Thursday, 27 June 2013


After the local time slip incidents that have been occurring recently. I am pleased to say that the council have finally seen sense and abandoned their reckless tinkering with the passage of time. The clock faces in Dufftown's clock tower have now been replaced and normality has resumed.

And as by means of an apology for all the inconvenience the towns folk have had to endure over the past couple of weeks. The clock faces have all been fully restored to their former glory. They really do look grand and so they should, they have quite a history after all.

Originally the Dufftown jail, the tower later  served as the burgh chambers and now houses the tourist information centre but was also at one time was the site of illicit distilling. But why is it known as  "the clock that hanged MacPherson".? 

MacPherson was a well known outlaw back in the day who was thought of by some to be the Robin Hood of the North. His full story can be found below but in short MacPherson was hung under dubious circumstance at the costal town of Banff  back in 1700. The Banff town clock played a central part in his demise and some time after 1839 the faces were removed from Banff and rehoused in the newly built Dufftown tower, In 2009  the romance and tragedy of MacPherson's story provided an inspiration for Beijing based artist, Qi Xing which moved him to paint his own sensitive tribute. 'As if James MacPherson had ever played fiddle to a white stag'

The following extract is taken from

James Macpherson was born, the illegitimate son of a Scottish Laird and a gypsy girl, in 1675.  He was a well known freebooter and outlaw around the north of Scotland, and particularly in the Moray area, towards the end of the 17th century.   James (Jamie) Macpherson was a man of magnificent stature, strength and intellect; an expert swordsman and accomplished fiddler.   He led a band of Gypsies who
 terrorised the landed gentry around the Moray area and he earned a reputation as a Scottish Robin Hood by stealing from the wealthy and sharing the spoils with the less fortunate.

Jamie was finally captured in Keith in Moray by a posse organised by his arch enemy, Lord Duff of Braco.   He may have escaped if a woman had not thrown a blanket over him from an upstairs window.   He was tried in Banff by Sheriff Nicholas Dunbar (A friend of Lord Braco) and condemned to hang for the crimes of purse cutting, theft and of being an Egyptian or gypsy.   Thus the last capital sentence executed in Scotland under Heritable Jurisdiction took place in mid November 1700.   On the day of the execution, Lord Braco heard that a lone rider was approaching from Turriff with a reprieve, and had the town clock turned forward by fifteen minutes to ensure the execution was not stopped.

Jamie had composed "Macpherson's Lament" in jail -
later re-written by Robert Burns.   It is said that Jamie played the lament on his fiddle at the gallows and then offered the violin to anyone in the crowd who would play at his wake.   When no one came forward, he broke the fiddle over his knee and said "no one will ever play Jamie Macpherson's fiddle again".   Another less likely version of the story says that he broke the fiddle over the executioner's head and jumped from the platform, hanging himself.   The fiddle can still be seen today in a folk museum near Newtonmore.

The people involved in moving the clock forward were punished, and for many years afterwards the clock was kept fifteen minutes fast, as a reminder of that fateful day. Still to this day the clock tower in Macduff has the clock on its western side blanked out as a gesture to the people of Banff.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Introducing the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence personnel carrier, formerly the Glenfiddich Visitor Centre VIP wagon. It is otherwise fittingly known as the Slug....
Jam packed with electrical gadgets, this brute was at time of purchase thought to be the best thing since deep fried mars bars. Until it started stopping to start that was. Now being an automatic such challenges could not be met by simply parking on a steep brae* or getting a push start from several burly still men. Along with power doors that have minds of their own and a ride quality of a whale in a wheel barrow with a flat tire on the twisting country roads around the distillery, the shine quickly wore off.

In spite of all that I quite like it. In the 5 months since being pressganged into AIR service the Slug has only stopped starting 3 times, had a windscreen wiper fly off and only once engaged the starter motor while the engine was already running. So its not doing too bad really.

The Slug even made it's way to Horatio Jnr Gallery, London and back recently transporting works for the final exhibition of  >> FORWARDTHINKING.  A touring group show curated by former Glenfiddich resident Tim Ellis, which had left London the previous year to spend the summer in the highlands.

So fingers crossed the Slug can hold out for the next few days. it has a busy time ahead with Yun Yao, Agi, Jungho and Yuvan  all due in by Monday.

* a hill

Sunday, 23 June 2013


Perhaps it is to do with being so far from home but it often happens that it turns out this way.... Artists arrive in the whisky soaked atmosphere of the Glenfiddich Distillery and slowly they begin to ... change. Sometimes this change is behavioural or on occasion, as the evidence above shows, for some poor individuals such as Erick Meyenberg, it is a more of a physical process.....
In addition to this these strange manifestations there is also the subtle impact on distillery employees. Who in turn can be affected by having all the artists on site over the summer months. In this case Visitor Centre Handyman Ian Cooper gets creative with a pressure washer....

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Now that the artist gang is growing, they have been getting out and about and really getting to know their way around the site. Something that makes The Glenfiddich Distillery different from most other distillers is that we don't just distil spirit here, we also mature and bottle all on the same site. So there is plenty to see.

For example we have our own dedicated cooperage where our team of coopers, under the supervision of head cooper Ian Mac Donald, tend to the casks that will mature the Glenfiddich spirit over the coming years.

The cooperage and its workers have already proved to be a popular place of inspiration for many former residents including, Matthew Sandager, Zhang Qing, and Dathini Mzayiya to name a few. Examples of their work as well as others from the past few years can all be found at -

Meanwhile those of you following the bin lifting schedule in Dufftown will be interested to know we had a double collection this week with green, blue and pink bins all being emptied on the same day.

Typical ... you wait all week then two come along at once !

Following on from a topic at the last FIRE CLUB, Daniel Barrow kindly unearthed this gem on you tube which proves Liberace did indeed star in an episode of the classic 1960 series 'Batman'. That not only features the departed tinkler of the ivories playing himself and his evil twin brother but also includes a cameo by three members of the Glenfiddich Tour guide team.

happy viewing !

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Two weeks ago local authority cost saving measures saw the clock faces being removed from Dufftown's famous clock tower in a, some might say hair brained attempt to meet budget shortfalls. With the town now declared a time free zone it is hoped inflation will remain static allowing the councils increasingly restricted budgets to in fact reverse and rise in real terms to provide  sufficient funds to cover all the local services they are responsible for.
Unfortunately over the week and a half since the clock faces went, this  fool hardy tinkering with the very fabric of the universe has brought about serious consequences. Time is now running backwards on itself within a three mile radius of the clock tower as these  pictures taken only this day of the town's railway station clearly show.

Even more worryingly it would appear that some sort of chronological whirlpool effect is also at play dragging back with it random objects. thereby creating a series of anachronisms, which is the only logical explanation as to why a 1950s radio truck is present in the 1940's
Of course this disruption to the rule of time also played havoc with Daniel's birthday on Thursday meaning it was only marked a couple of days later at last nights FIRE CLUB.....on the positive side though Daniel is now another year younger.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


A big welcoming Mexican wave to Erick Meyenberg, the third artist arrive to Dufftown this summer and the very first from Mexico. Born, raised and still based in Mexico City. Erick creates light and audio installations based on location specific research. Other than his artistic practise Erick enjoys cooking and gardening. and so it is fitting that to celebrate this momentous occasion it was arranged that the Damian Moppett memorial cactus should begin to flower.

Of course Erick should have been joined yesterday by Yuvan Bothysathuvar from India. However a hiccup in his visa application has delayed his arrival by another two weeks. We are keeping everything crossed at the moment for his success.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


Or garbage day if you prefer....

There are so many little things for new residents to grips with once they have arrived. Things us full time Dufftowner's might take for granted. The absence of night time darkness, the lifting action of the handle needed when locking house doors, and most complicated of all..... what day do the bins go out?

It seems pretty straight forward, or it used to be, but waste stream segregation was introduced recently and now every household in the area has 4 brightly coloured wheelie bins and an orange tub. The tub is for glass - jars, bottles. Pink for tins and plastic. blue for card and paper. brown is compostable waste and the old style green one for general rubbish.

Now, my bins are kept at the top of the road where they are picked up, as I have to take my waste to them, consequently I have no idea which bin is picked when?

I believe green is every other week, with blue and pink bins together and the brown one being picked up separately once a month on the alternating weeks between the green collection. The orange tub is picked up weekly.

Also I live just out of town so my collection day used to be different from the town itself, but now it is the same...possibly. This is a Monday, or perhaps a Tuesday? It could even be that the green bins are picked up on a different day of the week from the other ones? I really do not know any more. Its just not a problem as it's some thing I don't really need to know, except at the houses used by the artists it is a problem as the bins need to be taken to the roadside for collection the night before and its knowing what day they need to be there .....

Therefore we are currently having a controlled experiment at the farm house where Jon and Maria are staying. All four bins and the tub (each with something in them - correctly segregated of course) have been sitting at the gateway since Monday to be checked daily. We could have phoned the council but this seemed a quicker and less fussy way.

Monday, 10 June 2013


As well as being the worlds malt whisky capital, Dufftown is also right in the middle of the castle trail. With Balvenie Castle already ticked off the visiting list of Daniel, Jon and Maria, Sunday afternoon saw a wee trip to Auchindoun, which offers the most spectacular views over the River Fiddich and beyond towards the Cabrach. 

 The long light evenings are just perfect for FIRE CLUB which officially opened for the 2013 season on Saturday night introducing Daniel, Jon and Maria to the delights of outdoor whisky drinking and avoiding the reek from the fire.

* The carefully posed picture above was staged with pain staking precision to remove any indication of the sheer primeval excitement that is FIRE CLUB in case it should be viewed by any person of a nervous disposition.

Saturday, 8 June 2013


Another big Highland hello to our latest arrival Daniel Barrow. Daniel got in to Dufftown late on Wednesday night after a short stay in Croatia where he had been performing his live projection/animation to audiences in Zagreb and Split.

Since then Daniel has been getting settled into the house which will be his home for the next three months. Early challenges including none of his power adaptors working and a surplus of sticky stuff on his drawing board - the residue of package tape from shipping - have been over come and most importantly he has been issued with the all protecting cloak of safety that is the Glenfiddich site visitors Hi-Viz jacket.

Meanwhile Jonathan Erhenberg has been out and about on site in his relevant PPE seeing the process of making Glenfiddich single malt first hand and is putting all his new found whisky knowledge to good use in this piece from Blouinartinfo....

...and as the sun is still shining down on Dufftown I feel it now safe to put the snow shovel back in the shed and convene the first of the seasons FIRE CLUB. Now generally what goes on at FIRE CLUB stays at FIRE CLUB, but tonight's topics may or may not include when or when not to include the letter e in the word whisky

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


All the essentials are in place for our second resident artist, former Sobey Prize winner Daniel Barrow, who arrives later tonight. Currently based in Montreal and best known for creating and adapting comic book narratives to a new, "manual" form of animation by projecting, layering and manipulating drawings on mylar transparencies. Daniel has developed a personal language in which video alternately coalesces with drawings on overhead projectors.

Examples of Daniel's previous works can be seen at

Keeping the Canadian theme, the work of Jillian McDonald, who was in residence last summer illustrates a nice article about the Artists at Glenfiddich programme in this months Art of England magazine. The piece is part of a feature that highlights six of the most innovative residency programmes currently operating in the UK. It's nice to see three of these are based in Scotland.
Jillian's work 'Valley of the Deer' - a horror film shot on location while she was at Glenfiddich last year will be given it's first public screenings in Canada when it opens at two separate exhibitions later this month.

15th June sees the triple channel version opening at the Esker Foundation in Calgary. A few days later on the 19th it is also included in 'No Dull Affairs' a three artist group show at onsite(at)OCAD Toronto
All her friends at Glenfiddich wish Jillian all the very best for both openings

Saturday, 1 June 2013

First arrivals......

A warm Glenfiddich welcome to American video artist Jonathan Ehrenberg and his girlfriend Maria, who arrived into a sunny Dufftown today fresh from the big apple. Jon, who wins the coveted 'Most luggage ever brought' award, will be spending the next three months using the backdrop of the distillery and its surroundings in the production of his short films, which are to be inspired by local folklore and historical legends.

Some of his previous work can be seen at