I have often commented on the Scotch industry’s current obsession with “multiple expressions”. That is, producing ever more variants of the same whisky. In the past, there was simply one Glen Splash malt or one Grey Mare blend. Today there can be up to a dozen variants of either.
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.
Centuries ago, illegal distilling and smuggling were rampant in Scotland and Ireland as successive governments tried, unsuccessfully, to control distilling and to tax the distillers, or the whisky, or both.
The Scotch whisky industry will undoubtedly be seriously affected by Brexit. After all, France is the biggest export market by volume for Scotch, although exports to the US have higher value as Americans tend to buy rare and old malts whereas France buys cheap blends in bulk. Many other EU countries buy big volumes of the cratur, adding up to the biggest single market for it.
For the most part, the big-name blends and malts seem to have an immortality all their own. Somehow their names and repute liveth for ever in the public mind, ensuring they remain on the shelves and whisky websites decade after decade.
Most classic cars tend to have long and glorious histories, even if the grim reaper of the car world eventually seals their fate.
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.
Whisky is, sadly, still a drink that many people, including countless Scots, do not really take a shine to. Indeed, Scots drink more vodka by volume than whisky, a fact that totally flummoxes any foreign tourist I tell that to. Scots drink more vodka than whisky? Come on, pull the other one…
The role of the cask in whisky making is crucial and entire forests of white oak are planted, grown and managed in the US to supply the barrel makers. They supply the bourbon industry and the ex-bourbon barrels come to Scotland, either complete or knocked-down. Pre-used casks from Spain, Portugal and France also find their way here – the Scotch industry can never get enough of them.
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.