By Charles MacLean

From the Editor

These are stirring times for Scotland, with the arrival of the first parliament for 192 years, and stirring times for the Scotch whisky industry, which seems to be losing the confidence of stockbrokers. Perhaps ‘shaking’ not ‘stirring’ is more appropriate for the latter.Stock market nerves are jangled by the publication of the annual Scotch Whisky Industry Review, which reveals that world exports of Scotch were down eight per cent by volume and 15 per cent by value in 1998. They forget that the previous year was an all-time record breaker for sales, and that most of the downturn has been in the Far East, where there was general economic collapse during the period. Exports of Scotch to Europe were up three per cent by both volume and value last year, with shipments to Spain and Sweden rising by 13 per cent. And consumption of malt whisky continues to grow everywhere. Whatever else might happen under the new Scottish parliament, we can surely rely on there being greater political will behind ‘Scotland’s greatest ambassador’ – in, for example, negotiating for a reduction of excise duty in the home market and in Europe, or pressing for easier access for North American markets. Among the yards of comment that has appeared recently in the press is the old accusation that Scotch has failed to capture the youth market. In this issue of Whisky Magazine Matthew Gloag, who has been in the drinks trade since he was 18, points out that even he did not come to whisky – even The Famous Grouse, his family’s blend – until he was 28 or 29 years old.Elsewhere Jeff Siegel explores the long connection between whisky drinking and hard-boiled sleuths in detective fiction. The archetype may come from the era of the trenchcoat and the fedora, but it still echoes in the popular memory. Whisky is a man’s drink.But is it really? Plenty of women read this magazine. Dr Thomas Stuttaford – who began drinking Scotch when he was 15 or 16 – has some very encouraging things to say about the medical benefits of drinking whisky, particularly for women. Whisky, and indeed whiskey, is more versatile than it is often given credit for. Its excellence will survive the vagaries of fashion and of the stock market. It will survive governments and parliaments. And it’s even good for the health, which is more than can be said for any of the above.