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Whisky Paraphernalia

How to spice up your whisky room and dress appropriately
By Hans Offringa
Merchandise has become a significant extra source of income for many whisky producers. It sometimes seems they all try to outdo each other with gadgets, utensils and articles of clothing, and their fans are pleased at the selection. Fancy cufflinks, hats, ashtrays, USB sticks, notebooks, tartan gear. Enough to decorate your whisky room, and yourself.

Let's start with some cuff links. Probably the most notorious example is the set Laphroaig presented quite some time ago: Love it or Hate it - for the wearer to choose which one goes left and which one right. They are rare, but rumour has it that Laphroaig may bring them back.

Glenmorangie offers gold-coloured square cuff links with an imprint resembling the Cadboll Stone, as can be seen on most labels of current bottlings. At The Dalmore, one can purchase a tiny set of silver stag's antlers and The Macallan has immortalised Easter Elchies House on oval cuff links.

If you favour a tie, many a tartan is available, often connected to a specific distillery or the founder's clan. The Johnnie Walker tie displayed on the next page is an oldie, from a huge collection of a famous publisher in the Netherlands. When he passed away, a special commemorative service was held in honour of him. His widow asked all present to choose a tie afterwards. The JW was destined for me.

Talking about tartans, there is even an official Tartan of Holland, designed by Dr David Wishart of Whisky Classified fame. The Dutch company who ordered it now sells jackets, waistcoats, travel bags, scarves and kilts in the same pattern: red, white and blue, with a streak of orange. At distilleries the offer is usually restricted to a scarf or a cap.

Those who enjoy a cigar might be interested in collecting ashtrays. Glenrothes for instance had a silver coloured saucer doubling as an ashtray under each bottle for a while. Jack Daniel's carries a black, round, stoneware version with white lettering. JD also launched a series of Zippos with their name and logo. The gold coloured one has become a real collectible, worth more than a £100.

USB sticks have become a favourite way for whisky marketing departments to disseminate information. I still remember my first USB stick in 2001, capable of storing a modest 64MB, at a price of €99. Today £15 is nothing and the price is a fraction of days gone by. They come in various sizes and materials, sometimes disguised as a credit card. I really enjoy collecting these myself and keep them intact. My collection includes Bowmore, Glenmorangie Companta, the Famous Grouse, Black Bottle, Bruichladdich and a wooden one from Tobermory.

For a writer, the notebooks, inspired by the original Moleskine once used by Vincent van Gogh to take notes and sketches, are a handy tool and they look nice on the shelf even when completely full. I have examples from Talisker, Laphroaig, The Macallan and Glenmorangie.

Mouse mats are another item which are becoming a collectible. A favourite from my own collection is the Craigellachie Hotel version, a pars pro toto for all single malts and blends.

Decorative tins formerly housing a miniature and / or a glass come in handy for keeping business cards or other small objects when empty. The Ardbeg one once held a 5cl bottle of the famous 17 Years Old. In our kitchen we use a round tin from The Glenlivet to store pasta (uncooked). Or what about a Wild Turkey cocktail shaker? The Quaich, traditional drinking vessel of the Scots, can be found by the score, elaborately ornate, often with an appropriate logo engraved.

Some people are so involved with a specific brand that they will clothe themselves accordingly. Highland Park for instance has keychains, polo shirts, hoodies, fleece jackets and jerseys. Their famous Nordic brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen even has its logo tattooed on his body. Those who find that too definitive might try a temporary one, as sold by Ardbeg.

One older form of merchandise was once practised by Black & White whisky. In the 1970s customers who bought a bottle of this Scottish blend were presented with a set containing a Scottie and a Westie. They were drawn to each other as most dogs are, albeit it with the help of a magnet hidden in their little plastic bodies.

Whoever is fond of scale model replicas can start a really eclectic collection - from a grouse perched on a heather covered stone to a miniature of Strathisla Distillery. Woodford Reserve in Kentucky sells a replica of a wooden bung hammer in its visitor centre.

Blanton's Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon sports a stopper with a racehorse on each bottle. There are eight different ones. When presented together, they show a horse in full stride. On each hind leg a letter of this Bourbon's name appears. Buffalo Trace Distillery even puts the horse on the miniature bottles.

Lapel pins can be found by the score. Almost every distillery has one nowadays. They also do well on a pin board at the wall of your whisky room. Magnets are easy to find, too. Pcitured are some nice examples from Redbreast and Woodford Reserve.

One of the most remarkable whisky paraphernalia I ever received from a hardcore whisky fan was a leather apron with the logo of Glen Grant impressed into the surface. It was used by one of the distillery's coopers. I now use it in our wood shed.

Last but not least, when reading this magazine you might need a bookmark at a particular moment. Glenrothes has a nice one, consisting of two tiny flat bottles that can be clipped on either side of the page, held together magnetically.

Not all of these artefacts might turn into collectibles with great monetary value, but they sure bring back memories from whisky places visited. And such memories, after all, are priceless.