The Keepers promote the goodwill of the industry and honour those who have made a significant contribution to it
On the last day of April, the Spring banquet of The Keepers Of The Quaich took place at Blair Castle, hereditary seat of the Duke of Atholl. This bi-annual shindig is the opportunity for the Scotch whisky industry to honour those who have been actively involved in the promotion of Scotch on the world stage. April’s banquet saw a mammoth 53 new Keepers inducted into the Society.The new Keepers included in their number myself and our very own Dave Broom, as well as old friends of Whisky Magazine such as Andrew Symington of Signatory, Robin Dods of Burn Stewart, Michael Stoner of Schieffelin & Somerset, Jim Cryle of The Glenlivet, Derek Gilchrist of Morrison Bowmore and Campbell Evans of the Scotch Whisky Association. Canada, Taiwan, Panama and Lebanon all had new Keepers in attendance. The Keepers are now represented in 68 countries.There is a minority in the industry that is cynical about the Keepers as an institution. Sour grapes is an extremely unlikely possibility. More probably they feel that the society, although formed much more recently than you might think (1988), does more harm than good in that it roots Scotch whisky in precisely the bagpipes and tartan world that a modern spirit desperate to be sexy should be working hard to avoid. They also think that the society is an irrelevance. The cynics cannot see the long-term benefit to Scotch that awarding a medal to, for example, the Uruguayan distributor of Teacher’s will bring. Perhaps they merely find the sight of Koreans in kilts slightly odd. It is true that half of the Keepers are from overseas, and, more often than not, from the marketing side of the business. Very few production personnel seem to be rewarded and when they are it is at management level rather than the ‘doing’ end. Although very much an easy target, the Keepers is a splendid marketing wheeze. Similar societies thrive in the world of wine with organisations such as La Confrerie de Chevaliers de Tastevin amongst many others. The ethos of these societies is simple: dress up, receive a gong and have a nice dinner. Perhaps this is too much harmless fun for the refuseniks. Of course there are anomalies with an elected Membership. The minimum requirement for election is five years work in the industry. However, there are many who toil away unrewarded for 30 years or more.What the society does achieve is to provide a sense of community and, despite clear commercial competition, a feeling of united purpose. The objective of the Keepers is to promote the goodwill of the industry and to honour those who have made a significant contribution to it. Surely there cannot be anything wrong with that?The Keepers events are very big on pomp and haggis. The brains behind the society realise that Scottish traditions and culture are intrinsically unique and universally respected. They are as much an export as whisky. With this is mind, and to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of Whisky Magazine, I am delighted to announce the publication of a special supplement on Scotland: it will bring together the disparate elements that make Scotland such a magical place – the history, heritage and sheer, unspoilt natural beauty. Whether you visit Scotland regularly, or have visited in the past, or have the very good fortune to live there, I hope that you will enjoy the publication and I welcome your suggestions.
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