Drinks writer Ian Buxton’s latest book is cheekily titled “ Whiskies Galore ”, but I feel the ghost of Compton Mackenzie will probably forgive the play on words. The tome is a very splendid travelogue during which the grizzled industry insider ferries his posh collection of fountain pens and designer ink between Scotland’s island distilleries, leaving some of us squirming with embarrassment in his wake. His hand-crafted nibs tie up first on Arran, then scrape their gaudy way over to Jura and Mull before pausing (for some considerable time) for refills on Islay. Which is of course the centre of the known distilling universe.
Eventually dragging himself away from the Queen of the Hebrides, he wanders up to Harris, Lewis and Orkney with stops for a dip into the wells of Skye and Raasay.
The book draws on the author’s thirty years experience in the business, successfully charting historical voyages during which the enthusiast discovers all sorts of fascinating facts, yet the casual reader is kept well entertained through elegant anecdotes and some fascinating character portraits.
Being outrageous narcissists here at Bruichladdich, we are of course mostly interested in what Mr. Buxton says about us. Happily that amounts to quite a lot and generally, he seems to approve, although does seem relieved that we have calmed down a bit over the past seventeen years.
The author does like a decent dose of nostalgia however and to demonstrate how nothing you say on the interweb ever dies, he trawls up this archive piece from the ever-quotable Mark Reynier (our former managing director) who, in blogging about the Scotch whisky industry described it as having: “a staggering lack of vision, insecurity, timidity, sparsity of imagination, fear of failure (and) paucity of thought and imagination”. Well, we did like to challenge convention back then…
Ah, those were the days. They were full of Yellow Submarines and drams so strong that they would kill you if you drank them. So we Laddies put them in sports cars and got TV personalities to drive them up and down Islay’s roads instead. These days we just bore on about Terroir and Transparency. Although we do distil awfully good whisky as well.
Anyway, back on board the Buxton boat the on-board bullshit detector is turned up to eleven. His often hilarious prose mercilessly exposes cant, yet, as it says on the cover: “his profound love of these extraordinary islands and our spirits is never in doubt.”
This really is a delicious read and we whole-heartedly recommend it.
Published by Birlinn at £16.99