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Issue 116 - Call me Cassandra

Whisky Magazine Issue 116
December 2013


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Call me Cassandra

Dave looks at how history can point to the future

In the past week (at the time of writing) I received notification of plans for a further two new distilleries in Scotland. That makes 15 (maybe 16, no-one seems sure) new plants planned. When you then factor in the increase in capacity at existing sites, it would seem as if we are definitely in a new golden age.

Yes new markets are opening up and it would be silly not to take advantage of this increased, and anticipated, rise in demand, but has everyone been too enthusiastic in its vision of what the whisky world might look like in 12 years time? Don't get me wrong. I genuinely wish all of these projects success, remain enthusiastic about the return of small-scale distilling to Scotland, and am delighted to see blends once again opening up new territories, but I can't stop history's dusty voice whispering in my ear.

It's something that comes with age. I remember Islay when its distilleries were either closed or on short-term working, I recall writing of distilleries shutting up, being sold or bulldozed.

The 1980s showed what could happen in a whisky slump because lessons hadn't been learned from the 1890s. In some ways, this is understandable as there couldn't have been many executives with first-hand experience of those days, but Moss & Hume's The Making of Scotch Whisky should be compulsory reading for anyone in a decision-making position in today's whisky trade.

So, here's a quick refresher. The 1890s saw a mass expansion of distilleries, with 33 new plants opened in t...

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