_ Spirited efence _
Gordon Brown drinks whisky for a living so he can’t afford to become too sentimental about the water of life. In fact, he’s far from it: Brown is a hard- bitten whisky ioumalist investigating the innermost secrets of the malts for a living. His work digs a little deeper than the bulk of the whisky books around, which tend to deal exclusively with the whisky itself, examining how best to appreciate the subtle nuances of ‘old rubber and best Lebanese llashish’ - as one particularly flavoursome malt was described in a recent connoisseur’s newsletter.
There wasn’t even the whiff of keif in
the air, however, as we discussed the merits of various distilleries at
Glasgow’s posh 1 Devonshire Gardens hotel, with iust the aroma of morning coffee. “Of course it’s nice to be able
is with wine outside a chateau, but I don’t think it’s a sine qua non,‘ says Brown, pointing out that whisky travels far better than wine.
In The Whisky Trails Brown describes all the distilleries that an interested whisky lover can visit. From llighland
Lothian and Springbank in
; Campbeltown, eleven different trails
é wend their way across the country.
3 ‘The distilleries vary enough to be lnteresting,’ he asserts, ‘but also
5 there are the families, the stories
! behind them, the sequestrations and dramas of the past. They had their
g share of rogues, people who had said, i right there is your whisky, I’ve got it in bond, you don’t actually have to pay
3 the duty until you want to collect it.
: They would take the money and the
‘ whisky wouldn’t actually exist. The
; same barrels would be sold to three or four different customers.’
Most distilleries produce the bulk of r; their spirit for blending, although
' many have caught on to the increasing , interest in single malts. ‘Twenty years 1 ago, blended whisky was regarded as
3 the only whisky,’ remembers Brown. ‘It to sip whisky where it was made, as it 1 was only in the tail end of the 70s that
1 people started to realise that within : the family connection of all whiskies , you can also have variation: full, mild, ' strong, peaty, milky, and that this was an attractive element.’ At the extreme end of the fashion for
malts are the connoisseurs’ clubs, like Park on Orkney, to Glenkinchie in East ' the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which
buy whisky direct from the distillery and bottle it for their members at full cask strength. Although Brown admits
that these are elitist, he supports their efforts which counter the forces of big , business. As the ownership of
7 distilleries becomes concentrated in '3 the hands of fewer companies, the
prevailing marketing strategy will tend ‘
‘ towards the blander, less ‘interesting’ ! whiskies, making the overall taste of
E the product more anonymous.
'_ ‘Glenfiddich, for example, has three
i distilleries and a quarter of a million
; casks lying maturing,’ he says. ‘If it
3 were to become the representative of ; all malt whiskies, you would make the
V -, g whole category static again. The life
l and the energy of malt whisky is ; preserved in its variation.’ (Thom i Ilibdin)
E The Whisky Trails is published by 1 Prion at £14.95.
the vegetarian cafe
Mon - closed Tue-Fri - 11am-9pm Sat - 10am-9pm Sun - 11am-9pm 10% Student discount Tuesday - Thursday
All food is dairy
A really rather good vegetarian Coffee House and an unusual shop selling gifts, toys, books, craft materials, including a huge selection of jewellery beads.
and egg free.
403 Great Western Rd, Kelvinbridge, Glasgow
Tel: 041 334 5898
a workers' co-operative
7 Grassmarket, Edinburgh
03 1 229 7884
ROYAL MILE, EDINBURGH
Telephone: 031 557 4416
The List l9 November—2 December I993 89