It is interesting how whisky distilling has changed, from the days of illicit stills in remote caves to the big pot and column stills of today. Yet the central process, separating alcohol from water, remains the same.
This summer has spawned many articles and TV programmes on 1918, being the year women – or at least some of them – got the vote and the First World War ended.
For classic car fans, Perth and Scone Palace are THE places to be today. Why? Because 150 classic cars, from Model T Fords to Bugatti Veyrons, are on parade from Scone to Tay Street and back—all in the aid of charity.
It seems the range of Scotch whiskies—malts, blends, blended malts or single grains—mushrooms by the day. Some single malts now exist in 12 or 15 different variants (or expressions, as the chosen term seems to be), blended whiskies also come in different versions and prices and hardly a week goes by without a new blended malt or range of malts from different areas hitting the shelves.
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.
Several times in Amber Lights I have urged distilleries without visitor centres to establish one, as it would be a good long-term investment. And I still adhere to that.
Every year, several books or compendia of the best whiskies are published and nominate various whiskies from all over the world as their top 20, or top 10, or top five, whiskies—and newspaper headlines broadcast whatever the top nominee is. And very often the whisky is not Scotch.
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.
The motor industry is a ruthless place. However good the cars a firm makes, they have to sell well and be profitable if the firm is to survive.
It is impossible to downplay the importance of the United States for the Scotch whisky industry. The Americans have long had a passion for Scotch and they are still our biggest export market by value (they like good malts and the best blends), although France is the biggest by volume.