Gie him strong Drink until he wink,
That’s sinking in despair;
An’ liquor guid to fie his bluid,
That’s prest wi’ grief an’ care;
O Whisky! soul o’ plays an’ pranks!
Accept a Bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor Verses!
from “Scotch Drink
” by Robert Burns
Scotland’s national bard clearly had a great deal of respect for Scotland’s national drink.
And if you were ever in any doubt as to the importance of whisky to the Scots or whiskey to the Irish, then the fact that we both describe it as Uisce Beatha – or the Water of Life – would leave you in no doubt. So much so that, on my recent travels to Scotland’s Isle of Arran, I fully imagined it to be a breach of some law to depart the island without having at least a wee dram of the “Scotch drink”. A visit to the Isle of Arran Distillers, the only (legal) producer of whisky on the island, turns out to have been a very good choice, and not just because of its Irish connections.
Gordon Mitchell, their now retired distillery manager, previously worked at Ireland’s Cooley Distillery and was involved in the development of their most excellent Connemara Peated Single Malt. While Connemara is unusual for an Irish whiskey in that it is peated, the signature 10 year old single malt produced by Isle of Arran Distillers is unusual for a Scotch whisky in that it is not.
But that is not the only thing worthy of note.
Arran 10 year old single malt whisky
“It’s a bit like Craggy Island”.
The jovial Alastair Dobson was suggesting that the Isle of Arran might have something of the remoteness and quirkiness of Craggy Island, the fictional setting for the equally fictional Father Ted.
Whilst Arran is a rural island outpost and does necessitate almost an hour’s ferry crossing from the Scottish mainland, it’s still within easy reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Its appeal as a place to live is evidenced by the fact that many of its 5000+ residents are not native islanders but blow-ins from other parts of Scotland, Northern England and elsewhere.
Boasting the highest density of artisan food producers of any postcode in Scotland – and producing high quality fresh vegetables and herbs, cheeses, mustards, oatcakes, ice cream, beer, Scotch whisky and more – the island also appeals as a place where you can drink and eat, both locally and well.
Trust me on this. A spud could get very excited by the prospect of a trip to Scotland’s Isle of Arran.
This little island off the country’s west coast is the birthplace of several notable potatoes, including Arran Pilot and Arran Victory, bred in the early part of the 20th Century by local Arran shopkeeper, Donald McKelvie. As if that weren’t pedigree enough, Maris Piper – the potato of choice for chippers in the UK – was bred from McKelvie’s Arran Cairn.
It is with much respect indeed that I tip my new tartan hat to the originator of such fine tatties.
Spud goes Scottish