What Does David Beckham Know About Whisky?

Josef reports on his last two trips to Scotland's distilleries and speculates about Mr Beckham's involvement with the whisky industry.

Photograph © 2012 Josef Litt

In 2014, the world-famous football striker lent his fame to whisky in a blue square bottle. Arguably an overpriced product seemed to be the vehicle for attracting new customers by shattering the perception of whisky as an old fashioned drink.

The Scotch Whisky Association reported yet another record-breaking year. In 2018, over two million people visited Scotch Whisky distilleries, and forty-one bottles were shipped overseas each second. Mr Beckham was onto something.

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Wee Witchie. The smallest still in the Mortlach Distillery.

Photograph © 2019 Josef Litt

Abandoned spaces…
We often visit abandoned or disused industrial spaces in the distilleries that are usually unavailable to the public.

Photograph © 2019 Josef Litt

So many people told me about their underwhelming experience with whisky. However, Scotch comes in many different styles and qualities. Some say there is whisky for everyone; one only needs to find it. Add the authentic heritage, craftsmanship, passion in whisky-making and here is a recipe for life-long enjoyment.

I hardly ever appreciated spirits as a drink and whisky was no exception. My own journey of acquired taste started ten years ago when I tried a smoky single malt distilled on the Isle of Islay. I stumbled onto the “my” whisky by pure coincidence. Over the years, I was lucky and privileged to help others to find their favourite style and appreciate Scotch Whisky in its diversity.

Some whiskies are smooth and smell after flowers, some are smoky and medicinal. Why is that? Best to find out directly from the makers!

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
— Mark Twain

An evening at the Laphroaig Distillery. Taken from a hired boat on the way from Isle of Jura to Port Ellen.

Photograph © 2015 Josef Litt

bottles of Scotch are shipped overseas each second

In the first half of this year, I took two groups of people to some of the distilleries in Scotland. The itinerary of the trips reflected the attendees’ knowledge and previous experience. With the group keen to learn the basics, we explored the differences in styles of whisky, we talked about the production process and how it affects the liquid in the bottle. We tasted a carefully selected variety of whiskies of the highest quality from all corners of Scotland before moving to the Isle of Islay for a couple of days of pure indulgence. There we enjoyed whiskies one cannot buy in shops, often straight from the casks in the distillery cellars.

We learnt about malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. We found out how much the different barrels influenced the whisky inside, and we filled our own bottle with whisky of our choice comparing the liquid matured in various woods. Weather was lovely, and we had loads of fun.

 

A flying Scotsman in April weather. Sudden weather change surprised us at the Glenfarclas distillery. Some attempted to fly off to a warmer place.

Photograph © 2019 Josef Litt

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Tasting the “beer”.

Photograph © 2019 Josef Litt

With the other group, we went straight to the deep end of the annual Speyside Whisky Festival. On specialist tastings, we compared styles of whiskies from a single distillery produced in different decades. Some of the bottles carried a price tag worth tens of thousands of pounds. Distillery managers took us to distilleries usually inaccessible to the public and allowed us into areas mothballed due to modernisation but still containing the old machinery. We lived an enthusiast’s dream.

I would add that the same is true for knowledge, joy and laughter. We did not have the opportunity to taste Mr Beckham’s whisky from the square blue bottle, but we came out of the trip well-equipped to assess its quality and value.

Get in touch if you are interested in joining me on one of the future trips.

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