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When I think back to my time at Stirling University I see a montage of caffeine riddled all-nighters in the computing labs, beer bottles on windowsills, the Wallace monument, ducks eating cheese, and the freedom of being away from home for the first time. It was also where I met my fiancée Dawn, so for me Stirling has a special place in my heart…cheesy yes but it was one of the best experiences of my life.
You can imagine my delight therefore, when Suzie Huggins invited me along to give a special whisky tasting at theUniversity’s Japanese Week; an event which celebrated Scotland’s cultural and artistic links with Japan. Both Dawn and I were honoured to be part of the week by serving Lady of the Glen directly after the symposium and were excited to learn more about Japanese culture, art and whisky.
In 1870 the Yamazaki distillery in Japan set out with the aim of producing domestic whisky specifically for the Japanese market. Unlike Irish, American and Canadian Whiskey, which is distilled using a variety of techniques, Japanese Whisky began as a conscious effort to recreate the Scottish style of making malt whisky (even the spelling is the same).
Global acclaim however was slow to surface and for years Japan fell victim to industry snobbery. The real turning point happened at the 2008 World Whisky Awards where Japan stunned the world by pocketing both of the top prizes - the best single malt whisky in the world and the best blended whisky in the world. In the 2011 and 2012 awards, it did the same again. No one could have predicted the success story that followed or that Japan would evolve into the 2nd largest producer of single malt whisky in the world.
With such an amazing reputation for quality and innovation we were more than curious to find out what the Japanese scholars thought of oor rare Scottish whisky. Luckily we were not disappointed by the reception we received from the dignitaries. The feedback was exceptional, especially with regards to our new packaging and Lady of the Glen was so popular that we had open up our reserve bottles (we only brought them along for an emergency and had argued before hand that we would not need them).
What really was fascinating was the cultural reaction to the colour differences between the malt and the grain whisky. The dark mahogany Benrinnes malt seemed to attract the Japanese gentleman, while the golden Invergordon really created a buzz amongst the ladies. This was also the case with tasting preferences; the Japanese women tended to opt for and enjoy the sweet vanilla tones of the grain, whilst the men preferred the stronger and fruiter sherry punch of the Benrinnes.
Aside from the fun and light hearted nature of the tasting session we also learned a very valuable lesson that night…Do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the passion and knowledge that other people may have for your product. This rang particularly true when we met Richard Lochead MSP and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (man in charge of Scotland’s whisky politics). This man knows everything there is to know about the Benrinnes distillery and we are pleased to confirm to him that we have taken note of his advice. We were overjoyed to hear that he thought our malt was exceptional and wish him all the best in the future. Cheers Richard.
All in all the night was a tremendous success and the Lady of the Glen team had a lot of fun and banter in Stirling. We would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to Brenda for being an absolute star throughout the whole evening and for giving us a run to the station at the end of the night. It was very kind of you Brenda. I would also like to thank Suzie for giving us this amazing opportunity and for my Stirling University tie, I will wear it with pride.