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Issue 85 - Cutty Sark sails back to UK

Whisky Magazine Issue 85
January 2010


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Cutty Sark sails back to UK

“Weel done, Cutty-sark!” roars Tam O'Shanter in the eponymous poem by Robert Burns, full of references to whisky and its emboldening effects.

And the ‘cutty sark' of the poem (the old Scots for a nightshirt) passed into the English language, christened a famous clipper ship and, in March 1923, was chosen as the name of a new blend of Scotch whisky – one that would, like its namesake, travel round the world.

But perhaps we should say ‘Scots Whisky', the form of words that for so many years graced the label (and is still embossed in the glass). This was the responsibility of artist James McBey who chose the name and designed the label (incidentally, though he died in 1959, McBey's work is still exhibited – currently at Aberdeen Art Gallery). But, so legend goes, he never intended the bright yellow label. A printers' error replaced his tasteful cream with a rather more forceful colour. Time was running out for the first bottling, however, and out of necessity a classic blend was born.

The whisky was noted from the start by its very pale colour, something that Francis Berry, then chairman of the brand's owners London wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd insisted on.

For many years, it has been blended and bottled by the Edrington Group, owners of Highland Distillers. Naturally, then, North British grain features in the recipe, along with Tamdhu, Glenrothes and Highland Park; it's quite some pedigree. In fact, Highland Distillers actually purchased the Orkney distiller...

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