Whisky Magazine Issue 110
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Can an area steeped in as much tradition as Speyside produce a few true modern mavericks? Neil Ridley catches up with the free thinkers, and the liquid, that have changed the course of thinking in the region.
Type ‘maverick' into any of the world's most efficient online search engines and the general consensus is that of a lone dissenter; an intellectual and someone who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates.
Unquestionably, the whisky business has historically produced its fair share of freewheeling thinkers and pioneers: Charles Doig and his ingenious ventilator (aka the pagoda roof), Sir Peter Mackie and Speysiders George Smith and William Grant certainly qualify. But modern day mavericks are perhaps a little harder to identify, given the traditions and heritage surrounding the region. Given the nature of the maverick, three names stand out further than most among the undulating landscape of Speyside.
The Spirit of Independence...
For a clear vision of independence, look no further than Glenfarclas and the Grant family. But would the indefatigable George Grant be happy being described as a maverick?
“In my book, I think the fact that mavericks are people who stand alone, then yes;” he explains. “What we do at Glenfarclas doesn't have to abide by what big companies are doing and saying. We do things the way we want to do them. In terms of production, we're still operating direct fired stills which is unique for the area but I guess one aspect that's important to us is that we can turn things around very quickly here, which isn't something the whisky business is necessarily well known for.”
So because Glenfarclas possesses such oper...