"Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland...", Alfred Barnard, 1885

"O Thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink", from Scotch Drink, by Robert Burns

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

3 - Whiskystory or whiskhistory?

Alfred Barnard
In the introduction to the 2003 edition of Barnard, Richard Joynson describes the author as:

"… a self financing, fun loving Victorian waster, on a bit of a skive with his chums travelling the kingdom’s most breathtaking dramatic regions – all in search of a good dram."

That sounds about right and I think my own situation echos this characterization. Apart from the Victorian bit, unless you believe some of my more ‘witty’ chums in Edinburgh. Thanks guys!

A little bit about what to expect in this blog:

I don’t plan to write too much about the character of different whiskies, although I do intend to sample, and acquire, many whiskies along the way. My nose and palate are not up to the task of providing the reader with adequate descriptions and analysis of what makes each whisky unique, and besides there are many more experienced bloggers out there who are already providing this service. Among my favourites are Dr. Whisky and Malt Madness and their words do far better justice to our greatest product than I ever could. I will leave the whisky adjectives to them and others.

I will be visiting every distillery as described in post 2 but I won’t be touring every one, only those who seem to offer something different to the normal tourist experience. I don’t plan to go into the obsessive detail that Barnard did with regard to the size and volume of buildings, machines and vessels, and the whisky process at each distillery. Again, there are already detailed descriptions of our distilleries in publication. If you are looking for detail then I recommend Misako Udo’s substantial work The Scottish Whisky Distilleries (For the whisky enthusiast). I am a whisky enthusiast and this book has been invaluable in some parts of my planning.

What I hope to do is explore the changes in our whisky industry during the 125 years since Barnard embarked on his journey. By exploring the sites of both closed and current distilleries I hope to contrast changes in land use, any modernisation that followed industrialisation, and the impact of the growth in tourism and the necessary diversification that has developed within the industry during the last few decades. Contrasts and changes will be the keys to offering something I hope you will enjoy reading.

Along the way I will be offering some thoughts, as Barnard did, on the journey, the landscape, means of transport and any other observations that come to mind. These impressions of Scotland will be from the heart and I promise not to shy away from critical observation of my homeland when required. If I can also offer some amusement and entertainment through these sections then I will have achieved another goal.

Information on whisky distilleries, maps, locations etc. has been drawn from a number of publications and websites. If I have missed any references, or notes of thanks then I hope to correct that as I progress and record my journey. My enthusiasm for this trip has been boosted by the gentle cajoling and interest of my friends in Edinburgh and Copenhagen and this blog is dedicated to them, and to the spirit of Barnard.