Whisky Magazine Issue 134
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Christopher Coates shares a dram with The Bon Accord's Paul McDonagh
Since 1971, the Bon Accord in Glasgow's Charing Cross had been known as one of the city's finest alehouses; at one point being the sole establishment in the neighbourhood to go above and beyond the traditional Scots pub drinks list of lager, ‘heavy' and a blend. However, by the late 90s, the pub's reputation, which once had been as golden as the ales it served, was beginning to tarnish. This is when Paul McDonagh signed on the dotted line for the Bon Accord. A new era had begun.
“First and foremost I'm a publican. Then I'm a real ale man. Then I'm a whisky buff. In that order,” says Paul. I find myself slightly surprised; this is, after all, a pub that not only has over 400 whiskies behind the bar, but also hosts six whisky clubs and the annual Glasgow Whisky Festival ‘after-party'. It has its own online whisky shop, and is within walking distance of at least four Scotch whisky company headquarters; you're practically tripping over brand ambassadors, distillers and drinks writers. There's even a picture of Ralfy – of Ralfy.com fame – on the wall for goodness sake. “Oh him? He's a good friend of mine. What a man! Let me tell you, he's off his heid!” Paul chuckles.
Noticing my mock indignation that whisky didn't top his list, he proclaims, “You see, you can't just be a ‘whisky bar', it doesn't make sense… variety is very important. Imagine if you opened up your wardrobe and you had only one shirt, one pair of shoes, one set of trousers. That's no goo...