Few established distilleries in Scotland have undergone such radical transformation in the past few years as Tullibardine, at Blackford just off the A9.
Two separate factors have affected air travel in recent years and have also put paid to what was one of the more enjoyable perks of foreign holidays.
The starting point to making alcohol is sugar in one form or another, usually dissolved in water. It can be grape juice, to make wine and brandy. Or the various sugars in malted barley, to make beer, whisky or gin and vodka. Or sugar cane syrup, to make rum and cachaça. Or honey, to make mead.
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.
The burnished copper stills seen in every malt distillery have become both a symbol of the whisky industry and, to a lesser extent, a sort of Scottish icon. And, as the industry continues to win new converts to the cratur across the world, the demand for stills keeps increasing. Which in turn is good news for the firms that make the stills and related distillery equipment.
Amid the current mushrooming growth of gin distilleries, I have long intended to visit one. That finally came to pass some weeks ago when I saw a gin distillery that, for all it was in the most delightful and historic setting, reminded more of a medieval alchemist’s workshop than a 21st Century distillery.
The beating heart of any distillery is not the stills, or washbacks, or mashtun or the casking store. It is the distillery boiler, without which the distillery grinds to a halt. Hot water and steam are needed throughout the production process and, if the boiler packs up, so does the distillery.
With the festive season looming, all supermarkets, off-licences and other outlets start offering some excellent bargains on the drinks front, with blended and malt whiskies to the fore. Indeed, if your wallet or credit card is loaded enough, I would advise buying as much as possible during this bargain bonanza time.
One of the great whisky-linked success stories is Bailey’s – Irish whisky and cream, plus other ingredients, which is a global phenomenon and has spawned countless imitations, none quite up to the original.