In the delicious and sensuous world of single malt Scotch whiskies, nothing beats the enjoyment of nosing, and tasting them. The whisky’s finish offers a time for quiet reflection and camaraderie. Enjoying a favorite single malt while reading about Scotch and Scotland is a great way to enhance the experience if alone, and the preparation is simple: a favorite chair, a favorite glass, and a favorite CD playing in the background.
A small, friendly whisky book from my library is a first edition by Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, published in London in 1951. Scotch – The Whisky of Scotland in Fact and Story bears the bookplate of a Mr. Frank Hardy, who owned it in 1952. It smells like an old book. In 175 pages, Sir Robert sprinkles short verses and humor among the book’s three chapters entitled, “The Water of Life,” “The Whisky Barons, and War,” and “Prohibition and Dollars.”
On how to drink Scotch whisky:
is permissible with the whisky, but preferable after it. Soda water is an abomination
and degrades both the spirit and the soul. By and large, the connoisseur still abides
by the old Highland saying: ‘There are two things a Highlander likes naked,
and one is malt whisky.'”
About Glenlivet, Sir Robert includes an old poem:
Drumin, Blairfindy and Deskie,
And also one distillery,
More famous than the castles three.”
… and, another poem about Glenfiddich, founded by the Grant family:
Likewise eternal bliss,
For they should sit among the sa’nts
That make a dram like this.”
The “Big Five” Whisky Barons are profiled in about 45 pages. Family stories about the Dewars, Walkers, Buchanans, Haigs, and Mackies chronicle the business of Scotch whisky empire building and the making of great fortunes.
Sir Bruce ends his book on a melancholy, but hopeful note. Having taken us through Prohibition, World War II, and dire shortages of essential goods in Scotland, symbolized by whisky and oatmeal, he sums up the situation in 1951:
“Whisky and oatmeal! … they are the essence of the whole matter, the pattern of the past and the sign-post for the future. For if Scotland is to survive as something more than the northern county of England, she must continue to have a culture and life of her own. In a very real sense, whisky is the life’s blood of the Scot, and I look forward to the day when, among many other things necessary to his survival, he will continue not only to ask for it but to see that he gets it.”
It is interesting to note that prior to the early 1960s, books about Scotch whisky did not mention single malts. Creation of the single malt category is generally attributed to Glenfiddich, which was bottled, exported and sold under its own name, circa 1963.