It has often surprised — and saddened — me to hear so many people, including countless Scots, say they don’t like whisky and would never drink it.
Aberdeenshire, and the North-East generally, have lost many distilleries over the decades, but those which have survived are currently thriving. These include Fettercairn, Royal Lochnagar, Glengarioch, Macduff/Glen Deveron, Ardmore, Glendronach, Glenglassaugh and the quaintly-named An Cnoc.
Scotch whisky today is one of today’s great success stories — it contributes £5 billion to the UK economy and earns £4 billion a year overseas — whisky accounts for some 80% of Scottish food and drink exports and a quarter of UK food and drink exports.
I have often commented on the Scotch industry’s current obsession with “multiple expressions”. That is, producing ever more variants of the same whisky. In the past, there was simply one Glen Splash malt or one Grey Mare blend. Today there can be up to a dozen variants of either.
What never fails to amaze me is the enthusiasm for Scotch whisky I see in other countries. Indeed, Scotland sometimes seems to be the one nation that is losing pride and passion for its national drink — whereas, go overseas and in many places Scotchmania rules the roost.
Last week I commented on how the 21st Century whisky industry is widely scattered with its various stages (malting, then fermenting and distilling, and finally warehousing, blending and bottling) taking place at different locations —with everything being shifted between locations by truck. And that this is very different to how the industry operated 100-120 years ago.
New whisky distilleries are not just a Scottish phenomenon, they are springing up in England, too, even in London. So far there are six south of the Border, and all are keen to make their mark.
Although today Bond is usually linked to James, of 007 fame, for years Bonds and Reliants enjoyed a special niche in the UK car market.
Until quite recent times, Irish whiskies came from just three sources – Midleton in County Cork, Cooley at Dundalk, Co Louth, and good old Bushmills in Co Antrim. All three belong to bigger distilling groups, respectively to Pernod-Ricard, Beam Suntory and Diageo.
It may be a cliché but certain families have whisky in their blood — namely, the urge to make good whisky passes from generation to generation.