Forces
James Leavey's Corner
Along The Tipple Trail

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(extract from The FOREST Guide to Smoking in Scotland which will be published in summer 1998 by Quiller Press, in the USA and the UK)

by James Leavey, editor, The FOREST Guide to Smoking in London
and The FOREST Guide to Smoking in Scotland


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James Leavey
Apart from Cuba and its fine Havana cigars, few places have stamped their name on a world famous product quite as effectively as Scotland has with its single Malts - the name for one of the finest drinks in the world and indicating that all of the whisky in the bottle was made in the same distillery. We won't dwell on the blended varieties here; that's another, lesser story.

Traditionally, the Scots dried their malt over a peat fire, which gives Scotch its characteristic smokiness, hence their inclusion here. A proportion of peat is still usually burned during malting.

These are a few of the Malts that have a smoky aroma or taste: Banff 1974, 40 vol. Connoisseurs Choice; Ben Nevis 1972, 55.6 vol; Benrinnes 15-year-old 43 vol, Flora and Fauna; Bowmore 21-year-old (1972), 43 vol; Royal Brackla 1970, 40 vol, Connoiseurs Choice; Glenfarclas 21-year-old, 43 vol; Glenlivet 21-year-old, 40 vol, Gordon and MacPhail; Highland Park 12-year-old, 40 vol; Royal Lochnagar (Queen Victoria is reputed to have used this brand to lace her claret) Selected Reserve, 43 vol; Longmorn 19-year-old, 45 vol, Cadenhead; The Macallan 10-year-old, 40 vol; Mortlach 21-year-old, 40 vol, Gordon and MacPhail; Oban 14-year-old, 43 vol; Talisker 8-year-old, 45.8 vol; Tormre 5-year-old, 43 vol.

Scotland is the world's biggest exporter of spirit drinks. If you want to know more about the history of the `water of life', how it is produced and what it tastes like (short of starting a collection of miniature bottles or drinking the nearest bar dry), you could do a lot worse than investing in a copy of the late Gordon Brown's classic The Whisky Trails (Prion Books, 1997), The Single Malt Whisky Companion by Helen Arthur (Apple, 1997) or Michael Jackson's superb Malt Whisky Companion (Dorling Kindersley, 1994).

Even better, why not pay a respectful visit to the Malt Whisky producers themselves, after an introduction to the subject at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre in Edinburgh.

At the last count there were about 100 Malt Whisky distilleries in Scotland and their products (which are distilled and matured for at least three years in Scotland) are the only Malts that may be called Scotch.

Over 40 distilleries are prepared to open their doors to the public at various times during the year (usually March-October). There may be an entry charge which will usually be offset against any purchases you may make in the distillery shop. It's best to phone or write to them first as some prefer to see visitors by appointment.

The first International Scotch Whisky Festival took place in Speyside in October-November 1997 and is now an annual event. For more information contact the organisers at 6a Forth Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3LD. 0131 556 7441.

A word of warning: You are not allowed to smoke in the working part of any distillery as this may cause an explosion and a waste of good alcohol, but some of them make provision for smokers in non-working areas. As many of their staff light up during rest periods you can usually join them for a smoke outside the buildings.

The one question that everyone seems to avoid is how serious whisky drinkers can drive around Scotland sampling different Malts at the selection of distilleries listed below and be expected to keep a steady hand on the wheel on their way home. There must be a huge market for tea-totalling chauffeurs.

The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre

354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 220 0441)
Smoking policy: Smoking is not permitted unless you hire one of their private rooms.

Ben Nevis Distillery

Lochy Bridge, Fort William (01397 700200)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the restaurant, but not elsewhere.

Blair Atholl Distillery

Pitlochry, Perthshire (01796 472234)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the visitors' centre reception/foyer and part of the restaurant, but not elsewhere.

Bowmore Distillery

Bowmore, Isle of Islay (01496 810441)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the reception centre, but not elsewhere.

Cardhu Distillery

Knockando, Aberlour, Banffshire (01340 810204)
Smoking policy: Total ban apart from the smoking areas in the reception building and the café.

Glenfarclas Distillery

Ballindalloch, Speyside (01807 500257)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the car park and the shop, but not elsewhere.

Glenfiddich Distillery

Dufftown, Banffshire (01340 820373)
Smoking policy: Smoking is permitted in the tasting room after the tour, but at no other time.

Glengoyne Distillery

Dumgoyne, near Killearn, Stirlingshire (01360 550254)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the reception room and on the balcony, but not elsewhere.

Glenlivet Distillery

Ballindalloch, Banffshire (01542 783220)
Smoking policy: The distillery is undergoing major refurbishment and their policy will be reviewed when they reopen. Best check when arranging a visit.

Glenmorangie Distillery

Tain, Ross-shire (01862 892477)
Smoking policy: Officially there's no smoking in the visitors' centre, but the friendly staff are very tolerant so you can usually light up somewhere. A small museum devoted to the biggest selling Malt in Scotland opened in summer 1997 and will help to clarify the wide confusion on the pronounciation of the famous Malt's name. Locals pronounce it to rhyme with `orangey', but other parts of Scotland tend to say `glen-more-an-gee'. It's something to think about, over a smoke and a wee dram of the Glenmorangie PortWood Finish, 47 vol.

Isle of Arran Distillery

Lochranza, Isle of Arran (01770 830264)
Smoking policy: A section of the cafe/bar is set aside for smokers, but smoking is not permitted elsewhere.

Lagavulin Distillery

Port Ellen, Isle of Islay (01496 302250)
Smoking policy: No restrictions in the visitors' centre, but smoking is not allowed elsewhere.

Laphroaig Distillery

Port Ellen, Isle of Islay (01496 302418)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the reception area, but not elsewhere.

Macallan Distillery,

Craigellachie, Banffshire (01340 871471)
Smoking policy: There’s no visitors’ centre and you may only light up outside the buildings but don’t let this stop you sampling the Rolls Royce of single malts.

Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Crathie, Ballater, Aberdeenshire (01339 742273)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in the extension to the coffee shop, but not elsewhere.

Talisker Distillery

Carbost, Isle of Skye (01478 640203)
Smoking policy: You can smoke in part of the restaurant, but not elsewhere.

Tobermory Distillery

Tobermory, Isle of Mull (01688 302645)
Smoking policy: No restrictions in the visitors' centre, but no smoking elsewhere.The following distilleries have a total ban on smoking, in many cases because they're small and don't have the resources to answer the phone, never mind deal with a disrupting horde of whisky guzzling tourists, but their Malts are still worth sampling:

Aberfeldy Distillery, Bunnahabhain Distillery, Clynelish Distillery, Dalwhinnie Distillery, Edradour Distillery, Glencadam Distillery, Glen Keith Distillery, Glenkinchie Distillery, Glen Ord Distillery, Glenturret Distillery, Highland Park Distillery, Miltonduff-Glenlivet Distillery, Oban Distillery, Strathisla Distillery, Tomatin Distillery and Tormore Distillery.

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