& Cathy Stapells of VisitBritain with
Michael McCuish of VisitScotland
– the sign means “Shut your mouth and get on with it!"
What's a Scottish party without a fiddler?
about the favourite tipple of Scotland and I'll bet you'll hear – “Whisky!"
Well, that may change if the personable Alec Nichol of Spencerfield Spirit has anything
to say about it.
of the smallest distillery in Scotland, Nichol met with a group of
appropriately-thirsty Torontonians last Thursday to extol the joys of gin,
Scottish style. The evening was co-hosted by Michael McCuish of VisitScotland which is on
a roll to reinvent the public perception of Scottish food and drink.
don't always realize how fantastic our product is – and luxurious!
We have 16 Michelin-starred restaurants including 5 in Edinburgh, the
most in the British isles outside London," he told me. Canadians, he added, are
amongst the highest per-capital spenders as tourists so it's likely we're enjoying
that fresh, local produce in some of the country's swankier restos.
certainly the dinner, at the very Scottish-themed Caledonian Restaurant on a
pouring rainy night, was an impressive salute to Scottish cuisine, with nary a
haggis in sight. We tucked into house-cured salmon, pheasant, rhubarb crème
brulee and delightful cheese platters. Each course was paired with one of
Alex's remarkable gins, including the 57% proof Cannonball. “After two," Alex
assured us, “You can't feel your teeth."
So is the
gin-and-Scotland combo just too hard to get your head around? “In 1700 there
were 400 gin distilleries in Scotland," he explained, “Today it's a bit
unusual, but coming up since the cocktail revolution. Edinburgh, for example,
has the highest per capita consumption of gin in Europe."
distillery, located in the heart of the city , features gins with such
unforgettable names as Pig's Nose and Sheep Dip – and uses unexpected
ingredients including pepper and even frankincense and myrrh for a limited
edition Christmas bottling from which profits went to a local hospice. Clients
can tour the distillery in groups up to 20 and even make their own gin and
leave with a bottle with their own name on it.
to miss an opportunity to pick a distiller's brains, I asked if he had a tip
for curing a hangover. He certainly did – but it sadly may not be
available to clients who over indulge at the sip-n-dip pool bar of an all
inclusive. “Get out there and chop wood," he counsels. Palm trees, watch out.