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Issue 47 - Desperately seeking Spey what

Whisky Magazine Issue 47
April 2005


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Desperately seeking Spey what

The Speyside Festival starts April 28th. To mark the event Michael Jackson visits the region and considers its boundaries

To say that something is taken for granted can imply that perhaps it shouldn't be. Can I take it that you are familiar with the geography of famous drinks? Yes? Hand on heart? So, how about using the index finger of the other hand to point out, on an unmarked map, the following: Pilsen and Budweis, the Rhine and the Mosel, Burgundy and Bordeaux, Charente and Gascony, Oporto and Jerez, Islay and Speyside. Put your finger on them all did you? Excellent.

Let's not patronise any whisky novice who was not quite sure about Islay and Speyside. When I began to explore whisky, Islay was neglected; now, it is celebrated. Speyside has been celebrated for as long as any of us can remember, though its celebrity sometimes seems to be taken for granted.

I hear, less frequently on Islay than on Speyside, that my writing has contributed to this new juxtaposition of the great whisky regions. Certainly, I have devoted much energy to Islay, but I have also written about Speyside with due reverence.

Islay used to seem at a disadvantage. People were not sure how to pronounce its name. It was not on the Scottish mainland (it still isn't). It was often described as being remote and stormy. Its best-known whiskies were yet harder to pronounce, with smoky, medicinal tastes that some drinkers found difficult to acquire (still are); it had few hotels, and was not geared for tourism (still largely true).

All of those disadvantages have been turned round. Or perhaps they turned round of their own acc...

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