Ian has been working in and around the whisky industry for rather longer than he cares to remember (close to 30 years, but who’s counting?) but was drinking professionally well before that.
In a career marked by both incident and accident, he has been Marketing Director of a world-famous single malt; consultant to more distillers than you can shake a stick at; built several award-winning distillery visitor centres; written a variety of articles and about a dozen books; created a major industry conference; and, apparently without noticing, once bought a derelict distillery.
He is a Keeper of the Quaich and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Distillers; has been rectified by the Gin Guild and appointed a Grand Ordinary Member of the Von Poser Society of Scotland, indicating that he continues to fool some of the people at least some of the time.
I’m a very lucky boy.
In my day job (actually my evening and weekend job as well) as a full-time writer on spirits I frequently receive samples of lovely, lovely whiskies – quite possibly many folk’s dream drams. And gin, cognac, occasionally Armagnac; well, you get the picture.
Looking at my desk right now there are samples of Langatun Swiss whisky; a couple of Compass Boxes; some Scapa Skiren; Lagavulin 8 year old –oh, and a 42 year old Tobermory….
I’m not going to mention what I might stumble across in the cellar and I never know what the postman might bring tomorrow.
Great whisky falls on me like a gentle rain.
So for a Desert Island Dram I have to go to a complete world of fantasy. I’m going to request a time machine as well and select a whisky from the company that nearly broke the industry.
Yes, I’m dreaming of the Pattison scandal – infamously, “the most discreditable chapter in the history of the whisky trade.”
I’ve long been fascinated by these bad boys. How Robert and Walter Pattison rode the great Victorian whisky boom; talked up their family business and floated the shares; lived – all too briefly – like kings and then went spectacularly bust, taking another ten innocent firms down with them.
It ended in recrimination, disgrace and prison and the reputation of Scotch whisky was set back twenty years.
But – for a while – a lot of people were fooled, amongst them Alfred Barnard. So I’d love to try a dram or three of ‘The Doctor’, ‘Morning Gallop’ or the ‘Morning Dew’ blends, or perhaps take a valinch to their notorious ‘Glenlivet Vat’ (it didn’t contain very much Glenlivet as it turned out).
What a whisky to contemplate on a desert island! A dram from one of whiskies’ most turbulent decades as Scotch grew to conquer the world – and plausible villains like the Pattison brothers could make and lose a fortune in a few short years. All human endeavour, grandeur and frailty combined in just one glass. Ambition…greed…cupidity – it’s a morality play in a bottle.
And along with it I shall carry in my pocket “the finest whisky book ever” (according to Dave Broom, and he should know), a copy of Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald. First published in 1930 it’s as fresh, relevant and appealing today as ever. My most recent project has been to prepare a new edition for the 21st Century reader and whisky fan with a commentary, annotations and period illustrations.’
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