When historic hotels get a facelift, all too often the interior is remorselessly gutted and starkly modernised, with just the façade and possibly the cellar bar left unaltered.
Angus Dundee Distillers are one of these firms whose importance is in inverse proportion to their coverage in the media. Put simply, it’s a firm you have hardly ever heard of but they are a big player in the industry. Roughly 5% of the whisky that leaves Scotland in bottles or tankers is supplied by them. In a £4 billion-plus industry, we may be talking about £200 million-plus.
Benromach has long been one of my favourite distilleries and I recently was able to sample three of its single malt expressions—and all three were delectable.
The continuing expansion of Scotch whisky, with countless new distilleries opening and existing distilleries upping production, means demand for malt is growing hand over fist.
As someone who has banged the gong for whisky tourism and urged distilleries to open visitor centres, I’m delighted to see that everyone from the Scotch Whisky Association to VisitScotland is singing from that same hymn sheet.
Of all the cereals needed to make whisky, whether in Scotland or elsewhere, barley tops the list. The reason lies in one word: diastase, an enzyme plentiful in barley which spurs the crucial switch of starch to sugars, not just in barley but in other cereals as well.
Having described the effects of US Prohibition, both on America and the wider world, it is only proper to say the temperance movement a century ago was not solely a US phenomenon. In December 1920 Scotland held local referendums on outlawing alcohol and many places voted “dry” and closed their pubs and off-licences, many for decades.
Aside from several Islamic countries, no nation on earth bans alcoholic drink, and the reason is simple. They have learned the lesson from Prohibition, when the US banned alcoholic drink from 1920-33, arguably the most disastrous policy adopted by a democratic state in modern history – although Brexit may well come to supersede it in the long run...
At a time of whisky boom and new distilleries opening almost monthly, it may seem strange to harp on about vanished distilleries. However, more than 100 Scots distilleries, plus countless bonded warehouses and other whisky-linked buildings, have disappeared in the past century or so.
It has often struck me that different nations and cultures, for all their differences, share certain aspects of folklore in common.