By Rob Allanson

The best of times

Changing the guard with the new season
I wish I’d put some money on it. You know that feeling when you’re almost 100 per cent sure you’re right? Well, I should have listened to it. No, I’m not talking about whether there will be a second wave hitting the UK before Christmas, although that might be worth a punt – let’s face it, who would have thought that curfews would return to a British city?

Instead I’m talking about that moment just after everyone has had their summer holidays (congratulations if you managed something); the kids go back and then the grind starts again, even in this new normal. What happens at that exact moment? The UK gets some of its hottest weather for months. Beautiful clear skies, the mercury rising up into the late 20s (I know nothing compared to some places, but that’s not bad for here) and you have to start contemplating shorts in the office again. It happens without fail. The return to work and school heralds a mini heat wave, making September a lovely month. It looks like this is another part of this new normal that we have to get used to.

It’s still not my favourite time of year. Those of you that read the last edition will know this is generally October for me, the herald of true autumn weather and birthdays. I guess we have to get used to the fact that here, in the northern hemisphere, September is now going to be at least as warm as August.

Being in quite the reflective mood as I write this, for reasons I will come to, what a three-quarters of the year it has been. I am fully expecting, as some internet memes have suggested, that the Death Star is round the corner in 2021, or at least a full-on earth takeover by cats. They’re just waiting… is one near you right now? Look at
it, all fluffy and cute. Wrong! It’s waiting to become your overlord. Let’s face it, you’re already its household staff anyway.

Who would have guessed this time last year that society would have changed so much that, like me, you may not have seen family since Christmas? The entirety of transport systems have been reduced to light services and the hospitality and entertainment industries are decimated.

The whisky world went home and online, with a few torch carriers leading the charge to continue the education, the contact and the fun.

I must admit, if this lockdown business has taught me anything, it’s that the whisky world really is built on people. People you don’t even think about when you open that bottle of Bourbon, Scotch, Irish, Australian, Swedish, or Canadian. Everything from those huge supermarket blends to the tiniest outrun of hand-bottled whisky represents people, a community, a series of hands that looked after that bottle until you were able to drink it. Now that is a global community.

One thing I’d like to ask you to do next time you open a new bottle, is a little online research into where it came from. Don’t get bogged down in mashbills, fermentation times, distillation cuts or wood policy, but instead find out who made it. You may have been to the distillery and met some of the staff, or know them personally. Fill your glass and give thanks to those people, wherever they are. As whisky lovers we’re part of this great spirited circle, and sometimes we need to slow down and remember that even with the big blends, these are not just commodities, they are the lifeblood of the communities they come from.

As I said earlier, it’s time to reflect. This will be my last missive to you, good readers out there, as from next edition Whisky Magazine will be safely in the capable hands of our man, Christopher Coates.

My time at the tiller of this wonderful ship has been immense and filled with joy, friendship, and experiences that will never be forgotten.

We have assembled a writing staff that is second to none, and I really mean that. They are a phenomenally talented bunch of folk, who will keep you all entertained and informed in equal doses.

So if and when our paths cross again, be it in the homelands of Scotland or Ireland, beloved Kentucky, or in a distillery still room somewhere, say hello and let’s share a dram. Take care folks, and keep safe.