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Issue 16 - Scotland's beating heart

Scotland Magazine Issue 16
September 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Scotland's beating heart

Dominic Roskrow sings the praises of Scotch whisky

Eagle-eyed readers of this column will have noticed that in recent issues my travels in Scotland have taken me further and further west and north, and particularly to the islands that ring Scotland’s rugged coastline.

Particularly well-informed readers will note something else about my destinations; they all have a distillery and not just any distillery – one of the really weighty and respected ones.

This is no coincidence. My journeys have taken me from Highland Park and Scapa in the Orkney Isles to Talisker on Skye and down to the whisky island of Islay on the west coast with its seven distilleries for two good reasons. Firstly, because I enjoy a dram of the finest malt, and malt doesn’t get much finer than from these distilleries.

And second, because I also edit our sister title, Whisky Magazine.

The two magazines are directly linked because whisky is the beating heart of Scotland, and not just as a drink. Indeed, whisky is much more than a drink, which is why there is a whole magazine dedicated to it, and there isn’t one about vodka or gin perhaps.

If you have tasted Scotch and concluded that it is not for you, it doesn’t follow that your interest should end there. Apart from the fact that unless you’ve tried at least 10 or more different Scotch whiskies you can’t be totally sure that it isn’t for you, the subject of whisky is the gateway to understanding much about Scotland’s history and culture.

The drink features prominently in the development of Scotland as a nation, its illicit production was a direct response to the oppressive taxes imposed from the south, and its development and worldwide success has played a major part in promoting the identity that is Scotland.

In recent years the industry itself has acknowledged as much and responded by opening itself up to the tourist trade and now many distilleries offer quite excellent visitor attractions and dedicated centres. They vary enormously, from the low-key traditional distilleries, some with their own maltings, to the modern and consumer–friendly attractions such as the Famous Grouse Experience and Dewar’s World of Whisky (pictured).

These two in particular are aimed at the whole family and provide an interactive and modern experience which helps bring the true essence of Scotland alive. That whisky is at the heart of each is both essential and incidental.

I believe that there is a whisky for everybody, and some guidance and a little bit of sampling will go a long way to finding which one suits you. And a broader acceptance of Scotch will add immensely to your enjoyment of Scotland. A drop of whisky on any of the seafood dishes in our feature on page 50, for instance, will enhance them immeasurably, and top Scottish chefs use the drink liberally in some of their most outstanding dishes.

In this issue we have provided our normal collection of outstanding and visually stunning features but we have also provided an A-Z guide to some of the best malts in Scotland. They have been selected by the world’s best whisky writers and we have attempted to provide a simple guide to each one’s taste profile and cost. I hope that it provokes you to experiment a little and seek out that extra special dram.

And that it tempts you to seek out distilleries in far flung places.

I sincerely believe there is no better way to get to the true heart of Scotland to meet some of its most wonderful people. Happy hunting.