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Issue 6 - Voyage to the Western Isles

Whisky Magazine Issue 6
October 1999


This article is 18 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Voyage to the Western Isles

Andrew Jefford took the slow boat around Scotland's most famous distilleries and discovered that malt whisky is the best antidote to bad weather

The skipper looked the part, anyway, even if the week's guests were a motley crew. Jamie Robinson was his name. Sea dogs don't come any saltier: weather-beaten cheeks, rolling gait, the strength of three men when it came to reefing the mainsail in a rising force six. It wasn't just the seamanship, either: down below decks, when the lingering light of a Hebridean July finally drained into sullen grey night, he'd produce a concertina and sing sea shanties which I'll remember as long as I live.

‘We'll scrape her and we'll scrub her
With holy stone and sand,
For it blows some cold nor'westers
On the banks of Newfoundland.'

Put a bottle of Dalwhinnie in front of Jamie and he drank it like most of us drink wine, even if he did get up the next morning cursing. His wife, Marion, made a skilled and patient ship's mate, and his mother, Mary, a heroically accomplished cook, able to crimp home-made Cornish pasties in the sort of conditions usually experienced in theme-park, white-knuckle extremis. Incompetent, bungling and weak, finally: that was us, the journalists. But appreciative, too. Glad to be alive at the end of the day – that kind of thing.

It will not have escaped the notice of Whisky Magazine's percipient readers that three of United Distillers and Vintners' six classic malts are sited hard by the sea. Oban commands the sheltered passage around the inner Hebrides up the Firth of Lorn and through the Sound of Mull; you could rest the night there, too, before sailing ...

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