One of the great whisky-linked success stories is Bailey’s – Irish whisky and cream, plus other ingredients, which is a global phenomenon and has spawned countless imitations, none quite up to the original.
It has always struck me that people in these islands – especially Scots and the Irish – have a strange attitude to drink, epitomised by a onetime friend who once said: “If I can remember the end of a party, it wasn’t a good one.” Of all folk in Western Europe, it seems we (especially when young) too often drink only to get tanked rather than enjoy the great taste and inner relaxation drink can bring.
Diageo’s announcement that long-embalmed Port Ellen and Brora distilleries are re-opening is great news. One might ask what took them so long? Both have been shut for decades and, as a result, each new edition of dwindling whisky stocks fetched ever-higher prices.
The German writer and philosopher Goethe once wrote: “Where there is the brightest light, there is also the darkest shadow.”
A former editor I knew once said to me: “Journalism is the only profession where you are never off duty.” And he was right. As a journalist, you never know when a chance chat in a pub, a fleeting glimpse of some cargo on a lorry or a dusty document in a drawer might lead you to a good story. And good stories are the lifeblood of journalism and, I hope, of Amber Lights.
There’s no doubt Scottish distilleries are becoming, along with Nessie and famous castles, big magnets attracting ever more tourists to Scotland. The Scotch Whisky Association reckons 1.7 million people visited Scotland’s distilleries last year. I can only urge those distilleries that haven’t yet contemplated a visitor centre to open one.
AT first sight, a Kentish vineyard seems as far removed from a whisky distillery as it is possible to imagine. However, when I recently visited Biddenden Winery south of Ashford, Kent, little details kept popping up that reminded me of whisky.
On the whole, I try to avoid politics in Amber Lights but every now and again, politics creep in, in this instance thanks to President Donald Trump.
Detective fiction, Norse mythology and single malts are not obvious bedfellows but at a recent tasting of four Highland Park expressions in Edinburgh, they all came together during a most agreeable hour at the Caledonian Hotel.
Apart from working as a journalist, I have spent many years working as a tourist guide. Many foreign groups I accompany around Scotland have at least one distillery on their holiday itinerary, others are just one long pilgrimage to one distillery to the next.