It seems that single malt whiskies have all but matched the status of chateau-bottled great clarets. A good single malt, once the age statement is in double figures and the abv reading is 46% or cask-strength, has an aura that commands respect – and an increasingly high price tag.
It is interesting to contemplate how certain drinks (or brands) acquired their names. Wines are often named after their home village or area. Single malts are named after the distilleries that produce them. Other drinks are named after the company founder, be he Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam or Mr Heineken.
Apart from working as a journalist, I have spent many years working as a tourist guide. Many foreign groups I accompany around Scotland have at least one distillery on their holiday itinerary, others are just one long pilgrimage to one distillery to the next.
Distillery fires are a very rare occurrence these days but a century and more ago, they were painfully frequent.
In the annals of car-making, Edsel holds a unique place. It was no little operation started in a backstreet workshop by two underfunded petrolheads.
I’ve often thought a whisky distillery would be a great asset, and visitor attraction, at Scotland’s historic castles or stately homes. In the past, all castles and stately homes brewed beer, for both the lairds and the lads, and today their souvenir shops offer their own-label beer and whisky, blend or malt, supplied by one of the major distillers or blenders.
Writers tend to be voracious readers and I always look for old or unusual whisky books in second-hand bookshops or at car boot sales.
The Scotch whisky industry is today not just big but influential and highly respected. That stands in stark contrast to the way it was seen 200 and more years ago. Government laws and taxation had driven almost all legitimate distillers out of business and illicit distilling and smuggling were rampant.
As someone who has banged on for years about the great potential of whisky tourism, I must applaud Diageo’s recently-unveiled £150 million plans to boost the cratur to our visitors.
There’s no doubt Scottish distilleries are becoming, along with Nessie and famous castles, big magnets attracting ever more tourists to Scotland. The Scotch Whisky Association reckons 1.7 million people visited Scotland’s distilleries last year. I can only urge those distilleries that haven’t yet contemplated a visitor centre to open one.