Where the Rowhope Burn enters the Coquet, a large whinstone rock may be noticed on the North Bank. Close to this rock, there formerly stood a public house called Slyme-foot, which, during the eighteenth century, was the winter resort of all the neighbouring sheep farmers, where they spent their time in gambling and drinking, whilst their shepherds came every day to receive orders and carry news.
The whisky at Slyme-foot was innocent of duty, being the product of illicit distilleries, then so numerous amongst the hills of Upper Coquet. This contraband traffic was carried on in so bold and daring a manner, that the barley required for the manufacture of this "real mountain dew" was carted in open daylight from the lower parts of the valley, and the peats were cut in close vicinity to the "still", without an attempt at concealment, the border smuggler deeming the inaccessibility of his retreat quite a sufficient safeguard against a visit from the "gauger".
One of the most notorious of these smugglers was named "Rory". The remains of "Rory's still" are yet to be seen at the "Hare Cleughs", a secluded glen below Davidson's Linn on the Usway Burn. Rory had other "stills", including Rowhope, Carlcroft, Saugh Rig, Kitty's Walls and Blindburn. So well concealed was the latter, that on no less than four occasions, the gaugers, although within 200 yards of the spot, failed to find it. At that time, "innocent whisky" was sold by the smugglers, up and down the whole valley, who carried with them "grey hens" of duty free whisky.
There were many narrow escapes both the buyer and the seller had from falling into the hands of the excise men, who were generally mounted and armed with cutlass and pistols. It was a perilous undertaking for the gauger to perform the duties of his office, especially in the upper reaches of the Coquet. There was a certain worthy limb of the law, who for several years was stationed at Harbottle - and with whom, by the way the smugglers were on the best of terms. For the lonely excise man had a weakness for peat-flavoured whisky - that one of the most frequent entries in his official diary was the pithy remark 'stopp'd wi'witters'.
Today whisky is no longer distilled in the Coquet Valley and in order to call something Scotch Whisky there are strict rules govening its production. It must be produced in Scotland and kept in oak casks for a minimum of three years.
To enable Black Rory to make a return, a master blender from Scotland visited the Coquet Valley to research the qualities of water and peat from the region - the vital ingredients which dictate the style and flavour of whisky. He then hand-picked fine Scotch Whiskies which were blended and bottled in Scotland in order to produce a whisky which would match the individual characteristics of the area as close as possible.
We hope you'll agree, the result would make Black Rory proud!