New distilleries seem to be sprouting in Scotland like (pardon the analogy) dragon’s teeth, many of them on or close to the site of long-lost distilleries.
It is informative and entertaining to scan the whisky shelves in continental supermarkets and off-licences. All the big names tend to be there – including brands rarely seen in the UK such as White Horse, William Lawson’s, Passport, 100 Pipers, J&B and Cutty Sark.
There is no cast-iron rule about how the human nose and tastebuds will react to any food or drink.
Brittany prides itself on being the most celtic area of France, and therefore is also the one area that has gone most seriously into whisky distilling in a nation that mainly distils brandies of various kinds and “eaux-de-vie” – spirits distilled from various types of fruit, ranging from Calvados (apples) to kirsch (cherries) and pruneaux (plums).
People occasionally ask me to name my favourite whisky and also my favourite distillery. The first answer is easy (Lagavulin), the second more difficult because, as a whisky writer, I can visit distilleries not generally open to the public.
Ireland is also enjoying a whisky renaissance after long years when the industry knew nothing but downturn and shrinkage.
For decades, Lochside distillery was arguably Montrose’s most visible landmark. Built originally as a brewery in Germanic Brauhaus style, it brewed Deuchar’s IPA for many years and also (no kidding) Newcastle Brown, shipped from Esk to the Tyne weekly in two special “beer boats”.
One historic figure to whom the whisky industry owes much is Sir Winston Churchill. Although best remembered for his cigars, Winston liked his tipple and whisky was either top or near-top of his list.
There seems to be a strange, semi-obscure world of science and medicine that forever appears to be seeking yet another reason why we should shun alcoholic drink. The latest manifestation was a paper published some weeks back stating that even one pint of beer or glass of wine adversely affected a person’s “sense of agency”.
Readers may recall that a couple of months back some Bulgarian firm hit the headlines by selling a pair of oak cubes that, if you stuck them into a glass of so-so whisky, would apparently transform it into something really special.