Last night’s meeting of the Whisky Tasting Club was without doubt the best yet. We were entertained by stories songs and poems by Robin Laing who is known as “The Whisky Bard”. Robin’s repertoire was punctuated by a tasting of some rather excellent Speyside single malts.
Robin has written a book on a subject very close to my heart called The Whisky River which details the 55 distilleries of Speyside, tells you about their history and and product and along the way lists some interesting anecdote, story or poem attached to each. Having got the book last night I have only skimmed it but it is fascinating stuff.
Robin is an expert on Scotch Whisky. Very often experts and connoisseurs of whisky will have a preference towards the smoky peaty taste of Islay Whisky but Robin is a man after my own heart. He likes Speyside malts so much that he has written a song about the jewel in the crown of the genre, Aberlour A’Bunadh. Crikey! it’s a love song about whisky!
One of the products tasted last night was Glenrothes from the Rothes distillery (not of course the Fife new town of the same name). A fascinating story relating to the distillery and a ghost who allegedly haunted the place was recounted by Robin.
After the rebuilding of the Rothes still house in 1979 one of the stills (still 4) was giving trouble and not performing to the same level as the other stills. Several of the stillmen had reported seeing a ghost whilst working there alone. In appearance this ghost was unmistakably that of a well known Rothes character Biawa Makalaga who had died in 1972. Biawa was butler to Major James Grant of the Glen Grant Distillery. Biawa’s full story is HERE . The workers had mentioned this to Paul Rickards, head of spirit quality at the distillery. Rickards had known Biawa since 1962 and also knew professor Cedric Wilson, a pharmacologist who had developed a keen interest in the paranormal. Professor Wilson surveyed the site using dowsing techniques and concluded that the construction of the still house had damaged ley lines (the existence of which is dismissed by conventional science but recognised by some who would contend that science is merely one portal to our understanding of the world). Professor Wilson ordered the engineers at the site to sink two stakes of pig iron in to the ground to “repair” the ley line. Paul Rickards reported that “a silence decended and tension lifted” after Professor Wilson’s intervention.
Another point of interest was that Professor Wilson declared he had made “contact” with Biawa’s ghost and that he had now departed the scene. Still 4 apparently gave no more trouble from then on. Whether you believe in these things or are a full blown sceptic, its a great story, especially when quaffing a dram!
Another of Robin’s songs recounted the time in 2003 that the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay came to the attention of the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency – (“Our mission to safeguard the US and its allies from weapons of mass destruction”). The small distillery had webcams from which internet browsers could view the day-to day running of the diustillery. The webmaster received an email from “Ursula” who told him that one of their cameras was a bit wonky. The webmaster emailed back thanking Ursula and on further enquiry found that he was corresponding with the DTRA who had been monitoring the place as a potential security threat! The full story is HERE
This is Robin Laing’s amusing musical account of the incident.
The next soiree of the club is a visit to Auchentoshan Distillery near Clydebank on 8th December where we will be transported there, have a buffet and a wee selection of the product of the place.
Details of Robin Laings work can be accessed by clicking on the link at the top of this posting.
Footnote: “The Angels’ Share” is the considerable amount of loss by evaporation of whisky during the distilling process.Lucky old angels!
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