Although Scotch whisky is doing exceptionally well at the moment, it is always worth looking a year or even several into the future to see where the industry is heading and where it might be a decade or so from now.
We know that alcohol and homo sapiens have been best buddies for thousands of years. However, it is still much debated: Is it the greatest social drug ever discovered? Or the bane of mankind?
Anyone who has ever visited a distillery will have noticed how its warehouse walls and beams, especially if they are very old, are coated with what looks like soot.
Diageo’s announcement that long-embalmed Port Ellen and Brora distilleries are re-opening is great news. One might ask what took them so long? Both have been shut for decades and, as a result, each new edition of dwindling whisky stocks fetched ever-higher prices.
At a time of whisky boom and new distilleries opening almost monthly, it may seem strange to harp on about vanished distilleries. However, more than 100 Scots distilleries, plus countless bonded warehouses and other whisky-linked buildings, have disappeared in the past century or so.
It has often struck me that different nations and cultures, for all their differences, share certain aspects of folklore in common.
As someone who has banged the gong for whisky tourism and urged distilleries to open visitor centres, I’m delighted to see that everyone from the Scotch Whisky Association to VisitScotland is singing from that same hymn sheet.
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.
Scotch whisky today is one of today’s great success stories — it contributes £5 billion to the UK economy and earns £4 billion a year overseas — whisky accounts for some 80% of Scottish food and drink exports and a quarter of UK food and drink exports.
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.