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Issue 2 - Elementary my dear Michael

Whisky Magazine Issue 2
March 1999


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Elementary my dear Michael

Michael Jackson visits Sherlock's Home in Minnesota: he loves the bar, hates the pun

After a drink or three in a restful bar, I can find myself in deep philosophical thought. You know the sort of thing: ‘What chance encounters brought me to this point in my life? Why am I here? For that matter, why is this bar here?'

I suppose I should thank the American writer Alex Haley for one of my favourite bars. His quest in the 1970s for his origins led to the best-selling book Roots, which made genealogy a less nerdy pursuit. ‘It was the Roots thing,' laughs publican Bill Burdick, explaining his own journey. Burdick, from Rhode Island, was discouraged when he discovered that half of his forbears were horse thieves. Then he came upon a link, ‘cousins many times removed', with Peter Maxwell Stuart, who had just inherited Traquair House, at Innerleithen, near Peebles.

On succeeding to this border castle, Scotland's oldest inhabited house, Peter Maxwell Stuart had found an abandoned brewery in one of the wings. Once, every manor house made its own beer, just as it baked its own bread and butchered its own meat. Maxwell Stuart had put the brewery back into operation, and it still works today, in the hands of his redoubtable daughter Catherine.

From across the Atlantic, Burdick set his mind on a visit to Traquair. He was working for a restaurant chain, scouting for locations. On a business trip to Philadelphia for this purpose he was eating alone in a restaurant when he noticed the manageress. She was, he observed, very good at her job. They fell into conversation...

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