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Issue 8 - Smooth operators

Whisky Magazine Issue 8
February 2000


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Smooth operators

The glass of whisky in my hand is a pale, straw gold with the faint aroma of pears. Its flavour is gentle, understated and above all smooth. So smooth that someone, after probably at least a bottle, was transported to such heights of lyrical fantasy to write, “It slips down the throat like Elizabeth Taylor in velvet trousers.” The mind boggles.

We are talking of the world's biggest-selling malt, the whisky that introduced millions to the pleasures true Scotch – Glenfiddich, the flagship of William Grant & Sons. How that famous triangular green bottle marched south from Speyside in the mid-1960s to colonise the planet is a tale in itself, as is the history of the family behind it.

According to legend, in 1746 Alexander, William and Daniel Grant were the sole survivors of a band of brothers who lay dead on Culloden moor after the battle that snuffed out the Jacobite cause. Alexander's great-grandson was William Grant the distiller, born in 1839. After school he became an apprentice to a cobbler in Dufftown, a place with no less than 12 of them, before going to work at a lime quarry nearby. But after a dispute at the quarry, William found himself out on his ear three years later. As fate would have it, the town's solitary distillery of Mortlach was looking for a book-keeper and took him on. Married by the age of 20 to Elizabeth Duncan, William soon had several young mouths to feed, and thankfully after a few years he was promoted to distillery manager . But soon a new ...

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