Whisky Magazine Issue 65
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Michael looks back at the early days of his education in Edinburgh's finest
Had I discovered The Canny Man's so quickly by the employment of my own nose, that would have been a precocious feat. I was a teenager, and had been living in Edinburgh for only a few months.
I was introduced to the pub by my friend Wullie, a colleague on the newspaper where I worked. He had also extended my range from pints of heavy to nips of single malt. You may remember my story about Wullie. We lost touch until our paths crossed 40 years later at the other side of the world.
The Canny Man's was a rare delight: a pub that applied equally high standards to the choice, care and serving of the fermented and distilled forms of barley malt.
The Canny Man's beer came from the then family-owned Belhaven brewery, in the nearby coastal town of Dunbar.
Despite the proximity of the source, Belhaven beer was even harder to find in Edinburgh than single malt Scotch. Most of my friends considered McEwan's beer to be more than adequate. If they fancied a whisky, they had their favourite blends.
At the age of 15, my friend Slavinsky and I spent the morning reading the newspapers in the Carnegie Library, and then tried to look 18 in order to obtain a beer at a local pub. We were not quite ready for whisky, and couldn't afford it anyway.
Remembering the flavour of the local beer, I now realise that it was almost malty enough to be Scottish.
I have since learned that the brewer at the time was a Scot, who played the bagpipes.
Unaccountably, his practising disturbed the neighbours.