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.
The role of the cask in whisky making is crucial and entire forests of white oak are planted, grown and managed in the US to supply the barrel makers. They supply the bourbon industry and the ex-bourbon barrels come to Scotland, either complete or knocked-down. Pre-used casks from Spain, Portugal and France also find their way here – the Scotch industry can never get enough of them.
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.
THE 20th Century saw many changes and improvements to whisky production – the use of drum maltings, stills heated by steam coils rather than direct fires underneath and condensers replacing worm tubs, to name but three.
Although Scots tend to drink Scotch, many whiskies from other countries are bought in Scotland and some Scots are open in their enthusiasm for the likes of Irish, bourbons and Jack Daniels. And much as I like single malts, I’m quite partial to a good bourbon myself.
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.
Whisky was first distilled in Japan around 1870 but the first “big” distillery, Yamazaki, was built in 1924 after Masataka Taketsuru spent several years working in the Scotch industry, learning whisky distilling from the ground up. Since then their whisky industry has grown like Topsy and is today dominated by two giants, Suntory and Nikka.
A few weeks ago, Famous Grouse joined the ranks of the big-name blends whose chief blender is a woman. She is Kirsteen Campbell, who has been in training for many years and has been chief blender for Cutty Sark for the past eight.
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.
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.