Whisky Magazine Issue 57
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In the first of a new series in which we talk to leading business figures, Richard Woodard talks to Sir Iain Noble
Maverick. Iconoclast. Rebel, even.
Not words you readily associate with a Knight of the Realm and holder of the Order of the British Empire, but then Sir Iain Noble OBE doesn't fit into conventional pigeon-holes.
The owner of the Isle of Skye's Pràban na Línne (The Gaelic Whisky Collection to Anglophones) doesn't so much court controversy as marry it, set up home together and raise a large and unruly family.
He was once widely condemned for confessing to be a ‘racialist' (sic) because he didn't want English incomers to erode Skye's indigenous culture. While he now admits that this remark was “foolish,” he still feels outrage that the serious point he was making was lost in the media feeding frenzy that followed.
For Sir Iain is passionate about many things – including whisky, of course – but none more so than the culture of the island which has been his home since 1972.
“At that time the place was very run down, and almost everyone disappeared off to the mainland,” he recalls. “It was an appalling brain drain.” Inspired by a visit to the Faeroe Isles, where a strong local culture and economy worked hand-in-hand, Sir Iain set about trying to revive Skye, too. The founder of a merchant bank, he was able to help by investing in businesses such as knitwear and fish farming, not to mention whisky, but he had his eyes on another area too: the fastdisappearing Gaelic language.
“Anywhere in the world where there is a dying language you always have a dying ...