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There was a time, not so long ago, when we would know where our food and drink came from and what was in it.
Provenance, from the French provenir, “to come from”, means the origin, or the source of something. Traditionally a simple concept, but one that, in this modern world of globalisation, market forces and process efficiencies, is becoming increasingly vague and complex.
It is these insidious dynamics that gave us Watney’s Red Barrel in the 1970s (UK drinkers of a certain age will remember the product only too well, and shudder) and now we have “French” Kronenbourg brewed in Reading in tanks alongside “Australian” Fosters; “Japanese” Kirin brewed in Bedford alongside “Jamaican” Red Stripe and that most “Belgian” of beers, Stella Artois, brewed adjacent to the M4 motorway in South Wales.
But surely Scotch could never go the same way?
Already the major Islay distilleries ship the bulk of their spirit to the mainland to mature – not in the romantic loch-side warehouses that they evoke in their marketing, but in massive industrial sheds in the Lowlands.
The same is true of the rich universe of symbols and mythology with which Scotland and the single malt category is saturated. The reality is that many icons of traditional Scottishness are in fact more recent inventions, what have been called the “misconceptions and exaggerated romanticisation (sic) brought about, in the main, by Victorian 'rediscovery’". This very creative re-engaging with Scottish myth was largely fuelled by George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822, which itself was organised and choreographed by the highly romantic Sir Walter Scott; a man with no small commercial interest in the reinvention of Scottish myth and legend.
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Already the major Islay distilleries ship the bulk of their spirit to the mainland to mature – not in the romantic loch-side warehouses that they evoke in their marketing
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