The River Dee is delighted to announce it has passed the quarter-million milestone in its campaign to plant a million trees to save its threatened salmon from the lethal effects of rising water temperatures.

Marking the start of the river’s salmon-fishing season, the Burn o’ Bennie Distillery in Banchory has also announced the sale of special casks of Dee whisky to help reach the next target of 400,000 native trees. One of the world’s leading whisky experts described the project as ‘exciting’.

The River Dee Trust launched the Million Trees Campaign in 2020 after recording dangerously-high water temperatures in the hill streams of the Dee which are nursery areas for its young fish. Trust Chair Sandy Bremner said: ‘Our wild salmon are dying at sea in large numbers across their entire Atlantic range. That must be addressed where possible. But we know they stand a better chance of returning to their home rivers if they have good freshwater habitat to build strength in their early years.

‘The campaign to double our rate of planting is vital to the long-term survival of our salmon by providing cooling shade against rising temperatures. Other habitat work is making a difference in the short-term. And all our work is on target despite the huge practical and funding challenges of the pandemic.

‘We are grateful to all our supporters for making this possible. The backing of the Dee’s Fishery Board has been invaluable. And the latest initiative by a local distillery will provide a huge boost to our efforts.’

The Burn o’ Bennie Distillery will be selling 30 sherry-seasoned 250-litre casks, which will be filled to order and sold to help the River Dee Trust reach the 400,000-tree mark. Once the spirit has matured, it will be bottled in limited editions, labelled ‘Wood Masters of the River Dee’. Total sales would bring £100,000 to the river’s restoration work.

Charles Maclean is an acknowledged world authority on whisky, has published more than 18 books on the subject, and has held the industry’s highest accolade as Master of the Quaich. Famously, he starred in Ken Loach’s film ‘The Angels’ Share’. Charles said: ‘Burn o’ Bennie went into production only in 2020, although production and maturation was piloted at the Deeside Distillery at Lochton of Leys, on the edge of Banchory, between 2017 and 2019. Only 100 casks of Deeside were filled, and I can vouch for their quality!

‘The new distillery is adopting a highly original approach to making whisky. I am not at liberty to describe this – all will be revealed on 1 February – but I am excited by their ideas and cannot wait to assess the result’.

Charles MacLean will ‘bless’ the river with whisky at this year’s opening of the Dee salmon-fishing season. For the first time, two young women will share the honour of taking the first casts. Camryn Stewart, from Angus, and teacher Naomi Bell, from Torphins, are being recognised for their fundraising efforts to restore the river’s habitat.

Anyone interested in registering an interest in purchasing a cask should contact Burn o’ Bennie Distillery:

The River Dee Trust & the DDSFB also wishes to thank Charles Maclean for his expertise on whisky matters and for opening the river for the 2022 fishing season.

To purchase trees with the River Dee Trust then please visit their website for more information