In celebration of Whisky Month in Scotland this May, join us as we explore how this wonderful drink is produced
Words: ABHISHEK KRISHNAN
Photographs: JEREMIAH CHRISTANAND RAO
Whisky is an acquired taste, just like adulthood.
When you ask for a dram, you tell the world that you’ve grown up, that you’re people-ready and civilised. I love my whisky. It’s been my coming-of-age drink and, in moments of doubt, I take comfort in the fact that in drinking whisky, I’m in esteemed company and most definitely ‘grown up’, because it has been the choice of many a famous personality who was unquestionably very adult. Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain – all of them were fellow fans of the amber liquid, and their odes of love to it have been repeated time and again.
I don’t think anyone can put it better than the Scottish Gaelic, though, who first called the drink uisge or uisge beatha, meaning “lively water” or “water of life”. It’s a sentiment I can definitely relate to, as each bottle of whisky offers an education in history, tradition, perfection and distinction.
There are many countries that produce this fine spirit, but, ever since I caught glimpses of the country in a rather obscure TV show about an immortal who roamed the highlands, it’s been Scotland that’s fascinated me. For me, Scotland painted a picture of grey skies, rolling, windswept landscapes, hills and crags with some sheep grazing, the fading sounds of bagpipes haunting the hillside, Sean Connery with his thick Scottish accent and, of course, whisky. I really think pop culture is to be blamed for this image I have in my head. I’m no expert, but, in my opinion, whisky is Scotland’s best offering to the rest of the world. Sorry, Mr Graham Bell!
After a few flights and a bleary-eyed four-hour drive from Aberdeen airport (someone else was driving, I assure you), we reach Keith, a small, charming town in Moray, nestled on the banks of the River Isla. Keith, apparently, is an important stop on the Speyside, Scotland’s most prolific whisky region. I get my first taste of the famed Scottish hospitality right away – there’s an Indian flag flying high in the courtyard. After a quick shower and change, we’re seated next to a warm, cosy hearth surrounded by dark polished woodwork at our guesthouse. Our host, the eloquent and animated Kenneth Lindsay, jumps right into the action, introducing us to his well-stocked bar of, what else, Scotch. He’s a master storyteller, weaving a story around the heritage of the brands with each dram we drink. As I later learn, almost every whisky in Scotland has a firm rooting in tradition. Each has a legend built around it, which is proudly flaunted. And to good effect, too – The Glenlivet Distillery, for example, has a walkway that highlights the genesis and history of the brand, complete with the flintlock pistols that the creator, George Smith, had used (I’ll get to the gory details later).