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Issue 89 - Art of distilling

Whisky Magazine Issue 89
July 2010


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Art of distilling

Ian Gray travels the world painting distilleries – and he's truly left his mark on the world of whisky. Dominic Roskrow reports.

Not many of us get to live our dream – but Ian Gray is. The Scotsman's passions are his homeland, painting, and whisky and the distilleries which produce it.

Finding a career which combine his love of whisky with his love of art didn't happen overnight for Ian. Born in Hamilton, he had started painting as a child but wasn't immediately aware he had a real talent for it. And as a child he wrote to whisky companies asking for whisky labels which he collected. But of course it wasn't until much later that he developed a taste for good Scotch whisky.

“Actually my first taste of whisky was cotton wool soaked in a blend and placed rather carefully on a molar that had seen too many gob stoppers,” he says. “That was back in 1971 and it was Vat 69. My first malt came much later, a Springbank 10 in 1988 when I was 22 and that was me converted.” Strangely the time when Ian discovered an interest in malt coincided with the time when he started painting seriously – and Germany proved to be a catalyst for both.

“I fell in love with a German fraulein in 1988 and was not happy about paying British Poll Tax so I left Scotland,” he recalls. “I managed to secure refugee status in Germany and was granted free entry in to the university at Bochum to study German and art. I still have not thanked the British Conservative Government and Margaret Thatcher for this wonderful gift.” Soon after he was commissioned by the Dusseldorf parliament to create an abstract painting for th...

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