Whisky Magazine Issue 94
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The Baltic region is emerging as a new and exciting market for Scotch whisky exports, Neil Ridley heads to Lithuania for the opening night of the country's very first whisky bar
Sveiki atvyk ! Mano vardas yra Neilas ir aš turiu problem ... Aš nekalbu lietuviškai' As the airport taxi arrives on a very chilly December morning, my mind is frantically trying to cling onto this rather jumbled and unintelligible series of words, basically the one phrase, which seemed appropriate when heading to Lithuania for the first time.
According to Babelfish, it roughly translates as “Hello & welcome! My name is Neil and I have a problem... I don't speak Lithuanian.” Whether on arrival my hosts will shoot a puzzled look at me, before expecting me to marry the local farmer's daughter is another thing, but at 4am, still half asleep, on the way to a snowy Heathrow, it feels like a strangely comforting ‘get-out-of-jail card'.
A few weeks previously, I received an email with a request that immediately got my attention. “Do you fancy coming to Lithuania to deliver a whisky tasting on the opening night of the country's very first (Viskio Baras) whisky bar? Ps, bring a warm coat.” It was a decision that required very little thinking time and after wholeheartedly accepting, I eagerly began to dig out a selection of winter hats. But then disaster struck. Two days before the trip, the UK airports ground to a halt and it looked like the tasting was doomed. Undeterred, my hosts hastily rearranged and re-routed the trip, without the slightest of hesitations. You see, while most of us flounder under a few centimetres of snow, the rest of Eastern Europe literally plou...