By Rupert Wheeler

The New Road

Fond memories of my trip to Orkney
Well the results are in and we here in the UK have voted to leave the European Union. For those reading this outside the UK, this probably means very little. The vote was very close with 48 per cent voting to remain and 52 per cent voting to leave. In my opinion, I think this means very uncertain times ahead. This is very relevant to the Scotch whisky industry because one of the complications of this vote is that Scotland, because it voted to remain, will inevitably, in the near future, hold another referendum to decide on whether to leave the United Kingdom. All of this will lead to more uncertainty and take many more years to unfold.

I have recently returned from The Orkneys, where the subject of the referendum was being debated in earnest, and I was intrigued to hear that there had been plans to build a tunnel to connect the mainland to the islands. This did not go down at all well with the Orcadians who in previous years have expressed a wish to become independent themselves.

I was staying on the southernmost island, South Ronaldsay, where from my window you could see five lighthouses. Now there is something to put on the estate agents details when the house comes to be sold. Waking one morning I soon realised the importance of cruise ships visiting the islands. The Caribbean Princess was sailing past, through the Pentland Firth. This ship can carry up to 3,000 passengers, and with over 60 cruise ships coming into Kirkwall every year, you soon realise that even if only a small percentage visited the island's two distilleries, namely Highland Park and Scapa, how good this is for business.

Living on the islands you have a totally different approach to life. I witnessed this when I was given a lift to Scapa Distillery by an Orcadian who was extremely, and I mean extremely, excited to realise that she was going to drive for the first time on the 'New Road.' Not only was there a 'new road' but also a 'new roundabout', which had very recently been opened in time for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland event held on Orkney. I live in rural Norfolk, but not even here do we get that excited, although I did notice in my local newspaper the headline 'Roundabout is finally on its way.' Maybe it's catching.

For the first time under my editorship, we have introduced a special supplement entirely devoted to American whiskey. In this issue we have focused on Kentucky based distilleries, but in future issues we shall be covering the rest of the United States. Having been to Kentucky on several occasions I have noticed the enormous increase in production and popularity of Bourbon, and long may it continue. I would welcome any feedback from readers on this supplement and any other topics you would like covered in a similar manner.

I was intrigued to read a recent story about Jack Daniel's, America's favourite whiskey. For over 150 years it had always been assumed that Jack Daniel had been taught how to distill by the Rev. Dan Call, a Lutheran preacher in Lynchburg. But it has now been revealed that a slave named Nearis Green actually provided the distilling expertise. The role of Nearis Green had been suspected before, but like many slaves, his contribution to whiskey distillation had never been recorded. I hope this will be rectified soon.

Davin and Blair, regular contributors to the magazine, have made a start on a series about cowboys and whisky. They have started at the Edmonton Rodeo and over the next three issues Davin, with the help of Liza Weisstuch, will be travelling down the entire length of the Rockies.

And finally, a brief mention of our Battle of the Blends competition. We will be holding a half-way stage in August in London where both blenders will take us through the whiskies they have already incorporated. John Glaser of Compass Box will also be there conducting a Q&A session as well as giving his advice on blending. Being only open to an audience of 40, we have made plans to record the event as a podcast which means that all our readers will be able to enjoy it. Full details on how to tune in will be posted on our website in the first week of September.