Whisky Magazine Issue 65
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Ian Buxton dusts off the film canisters to discover a lost world
In every distillery visitor centre you care to name you'll see the same picture. It's sepia, often a bit grainy and it features a group of serious looking individuals gazing earnestly at the camera.
They're wearing flat caps, moustaches and working clothes, except that is for a rather dapper character in a suit, or perhaps a kilt.
He's the owner or manager, and they are his (it's virtually always ‘his' by the way) dedicated workforce, captured for posterity.
Your guide will explain that these are the distillery employees, circa 1920 or so and that, if you look carefully, you can see old Arthur whose great-great-grandson or some such, is still employed at the distillery today.
It's a comforting illusion, meant to suggest that nothing has changed; that Glen Gloaming is still made today as it always was.
After all, the camera cannot lie. But what, I wonder; do these pictures really tell us?
They're posed after all, a carefully staged tableau meant for public consumption, recycled today to reinforce a marketing driven perception of ‘heritage' that may well be heavily edited. I was determined to look behind the lens.
That was the start of an interesting journey.
Whisky making is not a static process.
Production methods have changed, even if the basic process is the same, and a snapshot cannot take us behind the scenes.
Sadly, there are few written records of what distilling was actually like 50 or more years ago. But in researching this subject I began to turn up som...