Oban distillery is physically and spiritually at the heart of Oban - the "Gateway to the Isles". In effect,the town grew up around the distillery and since its foundation in 1794 it has played an important role in local life. Distillery owners and managers to the present day have embraced this tradition of community involvement and hospitality - a tradition which came naturally to John and Hugh Stevenson, founders not only of the distillery at Oban but the town itself. They were local men -their mother had come from Port Appin upon the death of their father, a stone mason. Both learned the stonemason's craft. Hugh's son, Thomas, who had been farming in Buenos Aires, returned and purchased the distillery and the slate quarries from his father and uncle's trustees. Later he built the Caledonian Hotel, but, alas, he ran into finacial difficulties through supporting his brother in a printing business in Edinburgh. He attempted to satisfy his creditors by supplying them with slates and whisky. His son John, who had been living in Peru, but who returned and took over the running of the distillery in 1830, helped Thomas. He managed Oban until shortly before his death in 1869, when it passed out of the family. In 1883 the unforgettably named J.Walter Higgen bought the distillery. Between 1890 and 1894 he dismantled and rebuilt it bit by bit, in order to keep it in production - such was the demand for Oban's malt. He carefully replicated the famously small stills and other traditional features in order to preserve the quality of the whisky - such was its reputation. The distillery buildings and their internal arrangments are substantially the same today as they were following Higgen's refurbishment. Until recently only very exceptional malts were bottled and sold as 'singlesí. By contrast, Oban has enjoyed been a single malt since the 1880's.