From the Editor

From the Editor

Editor's Word | 16 Sep 2001 | Issue 18 | By Marcin Miller

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For us whisky enthusiasts, there are few places we'd rather be than on Islay during the whisky festival (see Dave Broom's diary, pages 20-22).I had the good fortune to stay on the island as a guest of Society. This on-line organisation encourages and enables members to visit the island. Crucially, the society allows members to make the most of their stay in an informal yet structured manner. In three days they can visit all the disitilleries (including Jura) and see many other places of interest. The evenings are given over to delicious dinners and informal tastings: proprietary bottlings are sampled alongside offerings from many independent bottlers. Not every bottling of every whisky is a winner, but this is useful as it allows people to express an opinion and gives them more confidence in their ability to assess and discuss their preferences.A visit to Islay will persuade the most virulently anti-whisky person to convert to the cult of uisque baugh. I speak an an evanglist as I have seen this very phenomenon affect my wife. The flight from Glasgow was filled with questions such as 'will I offend our hosts if I refuse their whisky?' It became an irrelevance as within 20 minutes of dumping our luggage in the cottage, she stood on the banks of Loch Indaal cradling a Bowmore 12 year old as if it were a long-standing habit. She hasn't looked back.Her first distillery visit was a tour of Ardbeg by Stuart Thompson. What a way to begin an education. These opportunities are open to all: all you have to do is go there. The festivals (I include the annual Speyside event) encourage a celebration of culture in its broadest context: Feis Ile is not just about whisky but about people.There are similarities between Islay and Kentucky. Both have fewer than ten distilleries, both make great whisk(e)y and both are inhabited by the most hospitable and sociable people around.Both have distilleries that have been in the firing line recently. The whisky-loving world rejoiced when Mark Reynier, Gordon Wright, Simon Coughlin, Jim McEwan and their investment group put up the money to dust down the 'Laddie and wheel him out of retirement'. The goodwill shown around the globe has been enormous.In Kentucky, the historic Four Roses Distillery stand at the figurative crossroads. With the acquisition of Seagram's wine and spirits division by the joint bid from Diageo and Pernod-Ricard it is clear that neither company will buy Four Roses.So what will happen to the distillery? There can only be three options: the first is that the distillery will be bought and that production will continue at the site. The second option is that the brand will be bought by another bourbon producer; the distillery will be closed (integrating production into the purchaser's existing operations), remaining stocks will be sold and eventually the flavour profile of Four Roses will change. The distillery may remain as a museum. Clearly this is the least desirable option. The third and final option - which is the one that real fans of whiskey will be rooting for if the first option fails to take place - is that an investment group puts up a bid and saves Four Roses.Four Roses Distillery has the unconditional support of Whisky Magazine. Bruichladdich Distillery was closed. The distillery was bought. The distillery was re-opened. Now the work begins. Let us hope that Kentucky can find another parallel with Islay and that Four Roses has the good fortune to enjoy a similar renaissance.The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is just round the corner: what better opportunity to celebrate a secure future for the distillery?
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