By Dominic Roskrow

The wonderful world of whisky

Dominic Roskrow reports back from Kentucky and Spain.
The Scottish have always been good at making allies – normally anyone who’s not English – so it came as no great surprise to discover that a special relationship was developing between the coopers in Spain and those from Clydebank.

As both nations love football it is even less surprising that they have started playing each other.But just recently the relationship has come under pressure – with dark rumblings of cheating.For it seems that that when the lads from Jerez played in Scotland this year they had a couple of unfamiliar faces. One of the players was particularly vague about where in the company he worked.When the Scots finally managed to get a name off him they did an internet search.It turns out he hadn’t just played professional football in Spain, he’d represented his country six times. Didn’t bother the Scots, though – they won easily.If there is a concern among American whiskey producers that an increasingly intrusive Government might turn its attentions to alcohol having all but destroyed the tobacco industry, then it would seem that such worries are well-founded.Richard Joynson at Loch Fyne Whiskies has discovered that at some libraries there is a bar on his website.And it seems that his website and ours is blocked in British Airways Executive lounges. In effect this means that you can access pornography online, but not read about whisky.Are we seeing creeping and unofficial censorship? Any other examples of such intrusion would be gratefully received. Not so smooth operator The United Kingdom has recently introduced competitive services for telephone directory numbers, and many of the companies are based overseas. It means that if you ring for a number you may have to spend 10 minutes spelling words out to someone who has never set foot in the country.But I personally draw the line at having to spell ‘Royal Mile’ ‘whisky’ and ‘Edinburgh’ three times and then being told the place, the subject and the shop bearing all three components of the above don’t exist. It turns out that the operator was in South Africa. Seems like the organisers of this month’s Capetown Whisky Festival still have a lot of work to do…Whiskies of mass destruction?We were just going to press when we heard that the Americans admitted to watching Bruichladdich distillery because they were suspicious that it was making weapons of mass destruction. So is the heavily bearded distillery manager Duncan McGillivray really Osama Bin Laden in disguise? Exactly how is the whisky production process similar to that of making chemical weapons? What exactly were the Americans doing spying on their allies anyway? And just who else is under the microscope?Discovering Whisk(e)y: George Washington
A fascinating battle for the hearts and minds of Americans is taking place Stateside right now – and George Washington has been placed firmly at the centre of it.Over the next few pages we feature Kentucky extensively, and it really is the most fascinating place.It’s where the Bible meets bourbon head on; where churches and Christian message posters litter a state whose four biggest products are tobacco, strong whiskey, horse racing and cannabis.And there’s an underlying contradiction at every turn; this is in many ways Bush country and yet the biggest threat to the bourbon industry comes from the fundamentalists at the heart of the Republican party.Having seen the tobacco trade decimated by draconian smoking restrictions, the distillers are well aware they could be next.So it’s no coincidence that the state is rightly focusing on its heritage and the major contribution it has made to the nation’s relatively short history.So it is that Washington is being put centre stage by whiskey producers.There’s an irony here – for while Mr Washington became a major producer of whiskey himself – he produced as much as anyone in the last two or three years of the 18th century and ran five stills, an incredible number for the time – he wasn’t always a friend to the early whiskey distillers.I’m no historian but as I understand it, old George defeated the British in the War of Independence then began taxing, among others, the whiskey producers. In the ensuing riots he is said to have used more troops than he did against the British.It may have been that at least some were so incensed that they put their possessions in barrels and sailed them down the Ohio.At this time what is now Kentucky was part of Virginia, and the state was actively encouraging pioneers to settleon the Western frontier.So the whiskey men did.These were, of course, very dangerous times but the combination of limestone water, the plentiful supply of corn and the warm conditions all suited whiskey production. And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least, a good story.So you could say Washington‘s contribution to the development of bourbon is both negative and indirect.But he did go on to be a great whiskey producer, and no fair history of him and the nation could or should steer round the fact.So much so that the Distillery Council of the United States (DISCUS) is in the middle of a $1 million project to rebuild Washington’s distillery at his home in Mount Vernon. The idea is to have the Washington distillery as a tourist attraction and the distillers are supporting the project by recreating an original recipe of the former president’s. The whiskey was drunk at a special party on the lawns of Mount Vernon in October.Full report in the next issue.