It is interesting to contemplate how certain drinks (or brands) acquired their names. Wines are often named after their home village or area. Single malts are named after the distilleries that produce them. Other drinks are named after the company founder, be he Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam or Mr Heineken.
Britain’s recent surge of new distilleries largely stems from law changes that opened up distilling to small firms, even private individuals, for the first time in more than two centuries.
As someone who has banged on for years about the great potential of whisky tourism, I must applaud Diageo’s recently-unveiled £150 million plans to boost the cratur to our visitors.
Although all whisky fans have their own favourite malt, many agree the best “all-round malt” is Highland Park. It has that combination of nose, mouthfeel and finish that makes it many aficionados’ first or second choice. However, one wonders how a distillery beside Kirkwall in Orkney got called Highland Park, as the nearest Highlands are miles south across the stormy Pentland Firth.
One thing we tend to forget when we buy our favourite single malt or blend is the huge and complex supply chain that ensures your bottle is sitting there on the shelf waiting for you to buy it.
Last week I covered the bigger names in Irish whiskey. This week we look at some newcomers — 10 have opened in the past few years and 22 are at the planning or building stages. Should they all be built, Ireland will have more distilleries than during its 19th century heydays.
It seems the great distillery renaissance that is sweeping Scotland and England is also sweeping across the whole of Ireland. That is good news, as Ireland saw its whiskey industry decimated nearly a century ago by a string of cruel circumstances.
Maybe I’m mistaken but we seem to have lost our ability to laugh about alcohol and its funny consequences. In bygone years, the village drunkard was a standard character in countless plays. Arguably, there are more jokes about drink than about sex. Music hall, radio and TV comedy sketches often portrayed the hazards of too much drink, especially whisky, but they made people laugh, they didn’t wag a censorious finger or make moral judgements.
Several times I’ve mentioned two globally best-selling whiskies which we hardly ever see, or have even heard of, in Britain. These are Label 5 (currently Number 9 in worldwide sales) and William Peel (Number 6).
For all that monasteries and convents are rare today, for centuries they were powerful institutions that played an important role in society. Monks were among the few people who could read and write in an era of near-total illiteracy. They also developed agricultural and scientific ideas and took them to other countries.