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Issue 40 - Anything but a Greek tragedy

Whisky Magazine Issue 40
June 2004

 

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Anything but a Greek tragedy

Greece has one of the biggest markets for whisky in the world. Tom Bruce-Gardyne reports

If ever there was a drink designed for chasing away the winter blues it would be whisky.

When the Irish monks first introduced their magic potion to the Scots, it was seized upon as a medicinal spirit to soothe sore throats and rub on aching joints.

Even now the thought of a Scottish winter without Scotch sends a shiver down the spine, and when drunk as a hot toddy, spiked with aspirin, lemon juice and honey, it is still the best cure for flu ever invented. It certainly knocks spots of anything you can buy over the counter at the chemist.

Strange then that the countries where Scotch whisky has really been thriving in Europe are all down in the south basking beside the Mediterranean. The Greeks, for example, hardly need a drug to anaesthetise the effects of a cold, damp climate. Yet they have made Scotch their number one spirit ahead of their home-grown, aniseed-based Ouzo.

“Perhaps this dispels the myth that whisky drinking has anything to do with the weather,” says Mike Salmon, International sales director at Cutty Sark, “though sales do fall off in the summer.”

Yet despite this seasonal down-turn, it takes a real heat wave for people to completely stop drinking spirits in Greece. After all much of what is consumed in the summer months is after midnight in the bars beside the sea.

Apparently the bar-owners in downtown Athens simply shut up shop in June and reopen with the same staff down on the coast. Clearly other factors are at work. Firstly Scotch whisky is ...

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