From the Editor

From the Editor

Editor's Word | 16 Sep 2000 | Issue 11 | By Charles MacLean

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I was lunching with my publisher recently in a trendy London restaurant, as one does. It was the kind of place which is favoured by advertising account executives and merchant bankers; my publisher was hoping to persuade the chef/owner to write a book. While we were waiting for him at the end of the meal, we fell to chatting with the wine waiter. I enquired about the demand for malt whisky, of which he had a pretty decent selection, largely independent bottlings. “Over the past year,” he said, “there has been an increasing number of women ordering one or two glasses of malt with their lunch – usually well diluted, often with ice – rather than wine or mineral water. They say it isn’t so soporific as wine, yet compliments what they are eating. He indicated a couple of svelte Blair babes in sharp, dark suits who were scrutinising their bill with a calculator.“It is too early to tell whether this is a trend, but it’s not an isolated incident. The straw poll I took for this editorial reveals that similar sightings of style-conscious, 30-somethings have been made in stylish restaurants in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and Edinburgh as well as London. And, of course, Scotch (usually blended or 5-year-old malt, drunk long, with a mixer) has been a fashion accessory in Spain, Italy, France and Greece for years.There was a time when Scotch (and soda) was only drunk by women of the mettle of P.G.Wodehouse’s ‘aunts’ – formidable ladies in tweeds, who stood no nonsense. It was not thought to be ladylike to drink whisky, and anyway, the powerful flavour of pre-War Scotch was more likely to appeal to masculine palates. Even during the 1960s and 70s, advertising placed the drink firmly as a male preserve.But things have changed. Sexual equality may have done its bit, but I think the ‘malt revolution’ of the past 10 years has introduced many more women to drinks which appeal to them. And not only the archetypal ‘feminine’ or ‘beginners’ malts (Cardhu, Glen Grant and Glenfiddich spring to mind); I am told by bar staff and brand owners that Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Talisker, and Highland Park have considerable followings among the fair sex. Macallan and Coke is increasingly seen in manicured hands; J&B and ginger ale is migrating from Madrid to Manchester, not to mention the perennial Glasgow favourite, Whyte & Mackay and lemonade.It is not generally known that the ‘Father’ of the modern whisky industry was actually a ‘Mother’.Let me explain. The modern industry began with the invention of consistent and good quality blended whisky in the 1850s. The man generally credited with being the first such blender is Andrew Usher of Edinburgh. However a family history of the House of Usher says that Andrew learned his skills from his wife, Margaret Balmer, who was an expert at blending cordials. She was the creator of a peerless Green Ginger Wine, which she sold to John Crabbie, the Leith blender, and which is still available (the essential ingredient in a Whisky Mac, another popular drink among the ladies).Is women’s interest in whisky is coming full circle? What are your views. In a forthcoming issue we will be featuring the role of women. If any readers feel there is a heroine or an aspect of their contribution we should highlight, please let us know.
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