It is an interesting point that we assume certain spirits are generally made from certain basic ingredients. We assume whisky comes from barley and other cereals, rum and cachaça come from sugar, brandy comes from grapes, kirsch from cherries, Calvados from apples, and so on.
George Brough, pronounced Bruff, made his repute by producing Brough Superiors, “the Rolls Royce of motorbikes”, from 1920 to the late 1930s. Lawrence of Arabia was so smitten with them that he bought eight. When he died in May 1935, serving under the alias Aircraftman Shaw in the RAF, he was riding bike number seven.
I have frequently commented in this column on how prices of whiskies from lost distilleries have skyrocketed in recent years as a combination of increasing rarity and speculation have driven prices through the roof.
It has often struck me that different nations and cultures, for all their differences, share certain aspects of folklore in common.
For all the current mushroom growth of new distilleries is a welcome boon after the 1980s-90s when so many distilleries closed, I worry that many of the new ones will struggle long-term to survive.
If there is one car whose demise has hardly caused any regret from car buffs, it is the Trabant. In a way, it was not just that the car was poor—above all it embodied everything that was wrong with a state-run enterprise in a near-totalitarian state.
One growing phenomenon in the whisky industry is special cask finishes—after 10 years or whatever in standard bourbon casks, a single malt is transferred into a port, sherry or other cask for its final year or two of maturation. Those last two years give the spirit the extra colour and deep taste which adds that final panache to what is already a fine whisky.
Some years ago, I mentioned one of the great, if now largely forgotten, names in the history of Scotch whisky, that of Charles Doig. Born on a farm near Lintrathen and originally employed in an architect’s office in Meigle, he eventually moved to Elgin and became the greatest distillery architect of all time.
One slightly overused cliché in the whisky business is The Angels’ Share, that 2% or so annual evaporation through the oaken walls of casks where the whisky sleeps until it is ready for bottling.
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.