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Issue 11 - Teasing Talisker

Whisky Magazine Issue 11
September 2000

 

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Teasing Talisker

An eccentric entrepreneur is seeking to challenge Talsiker's status as the only distillery on Skye. Tom Bruce-Gardyne went ot meet the man behind a special brand of Gaelic whisky.

Sitting at his desk on the Isle of Skye, Sir Iain Noble is gently extolling the virtues of Gaelic. His office is a cosy, wood-panelled room that dates back to 1812 and was once a shop. Outside the sea sparkles as intermittent shafts of sunlight break through the clouds rolling in across the Sound of Sleat. It is a beautiful yet perhaps distracting view for a would-be whisky baron needing to compete with the global giants who dominate the trade.

For this is the headquarters and corporate nerve centre of the Pràban na Linne whisky company. Right from the start I was intrigued. Why had this 64-year old Edinburgh banker and serial entrepreneur taken up Gaelic and then turned to whisky?

And what was he doing in the Hebrides? Sir Iain, full of patrician charm in his tweed suit, quietly waited for the flow of questions to subside, and then began at the beginning. "I was born in Berlin, was christened in Rome and went to school in Shanghai and Buenos Aires." This was due to having a diplomat for a father who then sent him home to finish his education in England and spend holidays with an uncle in Argyllshire. After working for the Scottish Council in Edinburgh he co-founded Noble Grossart, Scotland's first merchant bank, in January 1969. That same year the Eilean Iarmain estate on Skye came on the market. Sir Iain had been bitten by the Hebridean bug ever since walking from Stornaway to Barra with a cousin and clearly imagined that if he was going to end up anywhere it would be on...

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