By Dave Broom

A passing fancy

Dave delves into a glamorous world of Highland gatherings, fast drams and racy women
She sits, swathed in silks, crosslegged showing a surprising amount of leg. Her hair is styled in what I believe is called a pixie cut. In her lips is a cigarette holder which looks at least 18 inches long. Awisp of smoke wreathes around her tantalising smile. A saucy minx is Mademoiselle Spinelly. She is a cad magnet, a scoundrel seducer. Quite why her photographic portrait is in the programme for the 1927 Braemar Gathering is beyond me.

You cannot imagine such an obviously urban, not to say racy young thing, would be the sort of person who would be seeking out "jerseys for the Moor and Links" or "Marshall & Snelgrove's Knitted Three Piece Suit." Equally, one can hardly imagine that the people who attended Braemar that year would be mixing in the same dissolute circles as Mlle. Spinelly. Imagine if she had attended though, what an exotic frisson it would have brought to that venerable institution. I can imagine Mlle. Spinelly being hugely entertained by the Clansman's Race, Over 50, (Handicap). She might have even been persuaded to give the award to the Oldest Clansman On Parade (though the consequences could have been fatal).

It's fantasy. Mlle. Spinelly and her louche crew would have stayed in the great cities. Paris (her home), London, New York, Havana. What would she have drunk? Clearly Champagne, maybe one of the new cocktails she came across on a sojourn in Havana, but I fancy that she also sipped on the occasional Blood and Sand (that's Scotch, cherry brandy, sweet vermouth and orange juice in case you fancy replicating it) or just a simple whisky and ginger ale.

Mlle. Spinelly came from a world where whisky drinking was normal. As a contemporary copywriter may have put it: "Whisky! Consumed by laird and clansman, in great hall and clachan!" Stir in speakeasy, jazz club and public house and you get a flavour of how all-pervading it was. Whisky wasn't restricted by class or occasion.Those Italian Warehousemen, Chivas Bros who also advertised in the Braemar programme supplied their own blends for the Royal Household. Another advertiser, Wm Haig was claiming (in a luridly tartan manner) to be "the oldest distiller in the world." In Mlle. Spinelly's world whisky drinking was acceptable, unexceptional even. Even if you struggle to imagine her at the Braemar Gathering, equally you cannot envisage her arching one of her perfectly plucked eyebrows even higher if one of her companions happened to order a Scotch.

I'm not sure what the 2007 Braemar Gathering programme will look like. I suspect however it won't be hugely different.

There will be advertisements for outdoor gear, hunting, shooting & fishing accessories. There might be an ad for a distillery, or a Scotch brand. If there is it won't seem out of place. This is the area where Scotch is at its most comfortable.

I can guarantee however that there will be nothing akin to the photograph of the flirtatious French actress. She has moved on. Scotch - in the UK at least - has stayed behind.

What used to be a drink which was enjoyed by all has somehow, somewhere become restricted to a narrow demographic. Whisky used to be unthinkingly multifaceted: the drink of the landed gentry, the snifter in the gentlemen's club, the hauf and the hauf in the Clydeside boozer. Quaffed neat, long, in cocktails. Drunk by both sexes, all ages. It had contemporary relevance. Now whisky drinking is, like the Braemer Gathering, nostalgic.

If Mlle. Spinelly was living in London today she wouldn't be drinking the occasional whisky and her eyebrow would be raised if one of her friends ordered one. The world is, however, full of Mlle. Spinellys and they see things slightly differently.

Her Brazilian manifestation is in a beach bar in Recife drinking Scotch with coconut; her Chinese incarnation is shouting over the disco music in a bar in Shangahi and ordering another bottle of whisky to consume with green tea.

She might be in Mexico City, Caracas, Istanbul or the Latino communities of the US. In fact, the only place she isn't seen is London. Please come back Mademoiselle Spinelly, we all need you.