The Water of Life
Friday 15th May
The amusing thing about life is that with each and every day, there is something being celebrated. For example, there is a designated national awareness food day for almost every food item imaginable (particularly in the USA). Recent illustrations of this is that on May 17th, we will be celebrating National Walnut Day (not one for those with peanut allergies!) and a few days ago unbeknown to me, on May 11th, the world was celebrating the ultimate foodie’s dream day: National Eat What you Want Day. Why am I lamenting on thoughts of days and food? Well, apart from it being the Year of Food & Drink as part of VisitScotland’s latest annual campaign, it is also Whisky Month and tomorrow (May 16th) is actually World Whisky Day. Not just National Whisky Day, but World Whisky Day meaning that a plethora of crystal tumblers around the world will be raised in salute to Scotland’s national drink. Therefore, being located in Scotland it would be almost criminal for us not to mark this special occasion, particularly with our headquarters being in Aberdeen, which is only an hour away from many a small and unique distillery. Therefore, in a land known for its tartan and haggis, we are taking a moment to focus on and appreciate the national drink of Scotland.
First things first, it is undeniable that we have to take a look back to when Scotland’s favourite export rose to prominence. With a history that dates back to the 15th century, the first known event involving whisky was all the way back in 1494 when Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife gained the king’s permission to create acqua vitae. Unfamiliar with acque vitae? Well, once translated from Latin, it means “water of life” and this is where whisky’s name stems from; the Gaelic translation. It may sound ironic; however water from Scotland’s burns and streams is indeed a critical component of the whisky making process.
Back in the day, whisky was often associated with rebellion with much being done by Scottish distilleries to avoid the menacing English taxman. The epitome of this was that in the 18th century, there were only eight legal distilleries versus four hundred ILLEGAL ones. However, nowadays, whisky is held in much higher esteem because when we say whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, it is not in jest because whisky actually accounts for more than 85 per cent of Scottish food and drinks exports and is worth a massive £4.3 billion.
It goes without saying that a visit to Aberdeenshire (and Scotland for that matter), is not complete without a visit to a distillery. Both highly educational and enlightening, the experience will differ per distillery from whether you get to witness the blending process or whether you can engage in a cheeky tasting, but it is always a certainty that you will be able to pick up your own bottle of the “water of life” to ensure that you have an authentic piece of Scotland with you. Scotland is home to the only whisky trail in the world, in Speyside, where you will be able to find more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries each possessing their own unique recipes and history. From Glenfiddich to Glenlivet to Cardhu, these are the famous whiskies we all know, and can be found on this illustrious trail.
However, you do not have to look as far as Speyside to find a fully-functioning distillery. If you are staying with us in Aberdeen and are in search of something to do, even with the family, there are eight distilleries only an hour from Aberdeen which may be smaller in scale, but still have their own exciting story to tell and unique whisky recipe to taste. Fettercairn, Knockdhu and Glen Garioch are some of the names featured and of the eight overall distilleries; at least half of them do have visitor centres making for a perfect day-trip from Aberdeen.
Similarly, a whisky day-trip is also a possibility with a stay at The Spires in Glasgow due to its close proximity to two distilleries: Auchentoshan Distillery and Glengoyne Distillery. A visit to either or both is a good idea because Auchentoshan is only 20 minutes from Glasgow’s city centre and offers whisky masterclasses and at Glengoyne, you can even craft your own personal blended whisky! Even if you are just looking for a place to relax after a long day of business meetings or exploring the city, Glasgow is renowned for its plentiful supply of whisky bars such as the Bon Accord Ale House which offers a fairly large selection due to it being home to over 300 whiskies. Consequently, it is of no surprise that it is held in very high esteem in the nation.
If you are thinking of staying with us in Birmingham, you will not miss out on any of the fun there either because Birmingham is certainly not immune from the whisky scene either with it having now hosted an annual Whisky Festival for the past three years. This is no small festival we are talking about either, as while the first festival was attended by an acceptable 200 fanatics, this figure doubled in 2014 to 400 and in 2015, 600 tickets were released as the figure was expected to jump yet again. As a result, it is no surprise that after London, Birmingham’s Whisky Festival is the largest in England. It is clear there is a passion for whisky amongst Birmingham’s residents due to the launching of whisky collections by venues like The Plough, as well as the opening of Hard to Find Whisky; a whisky store that specialises in the selling of rare bottles of whisky. Emphasis is on the word “rare” as some bottles can even be sold for significant sums of money; does anyone have £35,000 to spare?
With it being National Whisky Month, there is a whole host of events going on across Scotland and in particular, there is a wide range of whisky madness occurring all around the globe tomorrow due to it being World Whisky Day. Over 11, 000 people are expected to attend nearly 150 events registered around the globe and if you happen to be staying with us in any of our locations, it is clear that you will be not far from any of the festivities.
Always remember to drink responsibly and with caution
Images: VisitScotland, http://www.trossachs.co.uk, Telegraph