Return of the Mac

Return of the Mac

This issue Ian Wisniewski turns his attention to the simplest of cocktails,the Whisky Mac
Ian Wisniewski

21 July 2006

Publication: Issue 57

Around of golf in Scotland can result in various emotions. Disappointment and a reality check if playing below par, or a sense of triumph when hitting the right spot. And for some golfers there’s also a sense of anticipation. Waiting for that special moment when they can enjoy a Whisky Mac.Scotland offers a choice of more than 500 golf courses, with the season typically lasting from April until mid-October. Moreover, long daylight hours extend the opportunities to play golf, particularly in more northerly locations. Orkney for example has three golf courses on the main island, and more on some of the neighbouring smaller islands, where it’s traditional to play until 11pm or even midnight during the summer, and especially on Midsummer’s night.Typically considered to be the origin of golf, Scotland is also of course the source of another speciality. A trip to Islay for example can include tours of several malt whisky distilleries, as well as a round of golf at the Machrie golf course. A reverse situation applies on the Isle of Arran, where there is only one distillery to visit, but several golf courses to play on.It’s also easy to combine a great location for golf, with an impressive selection of Scotch whisky, as at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, where the options include various rarities. Similarly, the Old Course Hotel in St Andrew’s is actually adjacent to the 17th ‘road hole’ fairway of the Old Course, with The Road Hole Bar offering around 175 options.The earliest reference to golf in Scotland dates from 1457, with the first documented reference to distilling in Scotland appearing not much later, in 1494. When the first reference to the Whisky Mac appeared is uncertain, though the two ingredients that comprise a Whisky Mac first got together in India during the Raj period, with a certain Scot, Colonel Macdonald, receiving the credit.Exactly where and how this happened remains to be discovered. Similarly, whether the ‘Mac’ part of the name was an abbreviation of Macdonald (which would have identified the colonel as the creator), or intended to be a more general allusion to Scottishness, is another consideration.While various drinks require specific techniques, and a number of ingredients to prepare them, a great advantage of the Whisky Mac is the ease with which it can be served, simply by combining two ingredients in a glass. And rather than having to measure a little of this and a little more of that, a typical Whisky Mac recipe comprises an equal, single measure of each ingredient.The vast choice of Scotch whisky, whether a mellower, richer or fruitier style, entails a far greater range of options than the choice of the other ingredient. Two leading contenders are Stone’s Original Green Ginger Wine and Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine.The origins of Stone’s Ginger Wine date from 1740, following the founding of The Finsbury Distilling Company in London. As demand for alcoholic drinks was accelerating at that time, distilleries were flourishing across the capital. However, a consequence of this boom was widespread drunkenness, which forced the government to make a stand and legislate. An Excise Act passed in 1751 was the answer, preventing distillers from selling directly to the public.This reform prompted a rethink, and the solution for The Finsbury Distilling Company was to start developing a retail network. A certain John Stone, who was a grocer in London’s High Holborn became a key figure in this plan. As an important customer, his name was given to The Finsbury Distilling Company’s Ginger Wine. Produced (as it still is) from the finest quality raisins and pure ground ginger, Stone’s Ginger Wine quickly became the flagship of The Finsbury Distilling Company’s British wines division.Meanwhile, Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine was established in 1801 by John Crabbie in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith. The brand entered a new era after being acquired by Glenmorangie Plc in 1993 (which was in turn recently acquired by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy).Another innovation was the company’s launch of Crabbie’s Mac in the year 2000.This means that if you prefer someone else to prepare a Whisky Mac for you, then all you have to do is open a bottle and pour, with Crabbie’s Mac bottled at 17% ABV, compared to Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine at 13.5% ABV.

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