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Issue 19 - A truly Scottish invention

Whisky Magazine Issue 19
November 2001


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A truly Scottish invention

Brian Hennigan reaches the controversial conclusion that if you want a real McCoy whisky con or rip-off then the only place to go is Scotland

The history of whisky is synonymous with our understanding of rip-offs. The term “The Real McCoy” derives from a blend of whisky produced by G Mackay of Edinburgh. Very much the preferred tipple in its day, the phrase came into being as consumers sought to ensure they were getting the genuine article and not some Japanese import. The much-used slogan was eventually adopted by the company as its advertising motto in 1870.

The term even crops up in the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883 (sadly there remain those who would attribute the origins of the phrase to either a boxer, Norman ‘Kid McCoy' Selby or an inventor, Elijah ‘Hydrostatic Lubricator' McCoy. As both of these chaps are non-Scottish they can be dismissed forthwith as impostors).

As anyone who has ever met a Scot, been to Scotland, or received a souvenir Scottish tea towel knows, we invented everything, including the telephone, the television and the tea towel. Hand-towels we will (grudgingly) admit come from Norway. Indeed, so thoroughly immersed are we in the world of inventions, not only did we invent inventions, we also invented inventing. Our prowess in this area is second only to our skill in claiming people as Scottish on the slimmest of evidence. Witness Neil Armstrong, our national football team and haggis, which actually comes from a small village in India. Given that we incontrovertibly invented whisky – the usual laughable claims from Ireland notwithstanding – it is obvious that when ...

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