Does Scotland sell whisky, or does whisky sell Scotland?
It is winter, I’m sat with a dram by the log burner, curled up on a large old leather chair, probably allowing the Laphroiag in the glass to do much of the thinking… and whilst I think that – although a perhaps confusing entry to this article – most readers would be able to grasp what I mean.
Whisky is important to Scotland; it is a large part of the Scottish culture. If you were asked to name five things about Scotland, would Scotch be in there? I’m going to prejudge the whole world and say, “Yes!” Fine, my target audience is somewhat leaning towards the alcoholic beverage side of the country already, but I think even outside of this space it would still edge towards the high end of folks’ lists.
In 2019, two in every three visitors to Scotch whisky distilleries or their visitors centres were international visitors (SWA, 2019). So, did they come to see Scotland, and whisky is a part of that? Or have they come for the golden liquid, and the country is just the place that makes it?
In 2015 it was assessed that 80% of Scotland’s food and drink overseas export was taken up by Scotch! Impacting on approximately 200 overseas markets, with France then the USA topping the tables, that’s one single item – OK, yes, from over 140 producers – but still it’s just whisky.
So, Scotland’s visiting tourists impact heavily on the Scotch whisky industry, and as a product Scotch whisky hits heavily on the world’s trading market, so really my opening sentence should not have been a question but a statement of fact: Scotland makes and sells the stuff, and because of that, people visit.
But, after several years of the world being in a rather “staycation” lead model, those visiting figures have been down recently. On a beautiful day last year I drove through to Glenfiddich distillery. Now, if you’ve been before you will know that the place has a pretty large car park… with only seven cars in it! The same day I stopped at Glen Livet; I was the only car there!
We are starting to open back to international travel, and – away from waxing lyrical on these pages – I work in a museum, a museum that normally sees thousands of international visitors every week. This past summer we started to see a gradual return to that, and I hope that that return of numbers is indicative of what we are going to see this coming summer (2023). Tourism, as we have seen above, is a massive part of Scotland, and it’s a huge part of the Scotch whisky industry. Whilst the stuff may be selling, we need that stuff to start to sell Scotland as a destination to the world again.
So, continuing to look (as I have been) at some entry level drams, and because I mentioned the distillery above, I’m going to have a wee peek at what I would actually consider a “fun dram.” What’s that? Well, it’s a whisky that I think is maybe just that: it’s something not to be taken too seriously, but still enjoyed in the right way.
Glenlivet, on occasion, takes a knocking for their liquid output. I may have said this before, but someone who I respect greatly in whisky once described the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve as “good cooking whisky.” I suppose that harks back to the old adage that “there is no good whisky or bad whisky, just some whisky you enjoy more than others,” and I suppose if you enjoy it for cooking, then it has a use?
A couple of years ago Glenlivet – like many others – went for that (perhaps fashionable) move to finish a whisky in Caribbean rum casks. It’s a Non Age Statement (NAS) whisky, so I’ve no idea how old. It has been finished in rum casks; how many? For how long? Being honest again: I’ve no idea! It is released at 40% ABV and I think Amy picked this up at the supermarket for about £22. I have seen it a wee bit higher, but being honest: the cheaper the better!
The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve – Review
Colour: A slightly darkish amber.
On the nose: Apples (it is a Speyside!). It has that common edge of a liquid from that region, slightly orchard-like, with perhaps a freshly cut farm field, straw? Hay? With a slight hard candy sweetness, there is a pineapple juice hint…. I think.
In the mouth: The palate is a sugar sweet; the pineapple on the nose is perhaps here, that syrupy juice that you find in tinned fruit, although I can still find the Speyside influence, I can get a hint of a tropical approach. It tails off to a spirity, even spicy edge, maybe ground black pepper?
This is, in my opinion, not a cooking whisky; it is slightly elevated from that. It’s probably not really a sipping whisky. I think, as I suggested above, that this should be taken as a wee bit of fun and enjoyed as a mixing whisky. I went that stage further and pulled out a wee bit of orange bitters and some Sprite… and you know what? With a wee umbrella and ice and a slice, I could see myself relaxing by the pool (obviously not here in Scotland; I’ll be in Spain relaxing in the sun, whilst renting my house out to some Americans who want to come here and enjoy Scotland and its distilleries). So yeah, this is no Heaven on Earth whisky, but if you go about it with the knowledge that it is what it is, then I think it has a place… on the pool side bar.
Image courtesy of The Glenlivet.
A whisky like this relies on two factors to sell. Price and novelty. It references cocktails in the blurb and is squarely aimed at the kind of punter who likes a Captain Morgan spiced and will occasionally splash out on a malt if the price is right. Against that background I had low expectations but at the price point I couldn’t complain, it was more drinkable than I anticipated. Better than Founders Reserve or most of the ones that are on offer for £20, but not by a large margin. I scored it a 4 which included a +1 for price.
Simon, I really think we are singing from the same song sheet, cheers for the comments
Forgot to add my tasting note. I’m not very good at being descriptive so I simply plumped for” what Glenfiddich 21 Gran Reserva would taste like, if it was made of NAS whisky they can sell for £24″.