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.
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.
I’ve heard some world-weary souls declare if you’ve seen one whisky distillery, you’ve seen them all. I disagree — it’s like saying every car is the same, whether a Mini or Rolls Royce.
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.
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.
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.
Fans of big-name malts will have noticed a subtle change in their bottles and labels in recent years.
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 long puzzled me why the French, who are singularly patriotic, indeed utterly chauvinistic, about their nation’s food and drink, are such big fans of Scotch whisky.
One of the great joys for visitors to Scotland is to tour a distillery, or even several, and enjoy a dram of the house best at the end of the tour.