The Aberfeldy distillery and Dewar's World of Whisky lie a few miles further on, on
the outskirts of the town of Aberfeldy.
Now this is Extreme Whisky Glitz. The distillery itself is very neat, clipped and
well presented, with imposing grey buildings topped with the traditional pagoda, precise
lawns, lots of flowers, sharp paths and a steel and blond-wood bridge into the Visitor
Centre, housed in the distillery's old maltings. A nature trail meanders off into the woods
and in theory we might have been tempted to go for a stroll, however it's a day of on-off
drizzle - a Soft Day as they'd term it in Ireland - and so we miss out on the nature stuff.
There's an old and well-preserved saddle-tank shunting engine in the grounds which used
to haul the barrels from the distillery to the branch line that went via the old bridge we
Inside is where the real plushness is. There's a well-stocked shop - the Brand Store,
no less - and for a fiver you get given a big flat stick-like thing like two very early mobile
phones joined together end-on. This is a sort of personalised, opt-in tour guide, and avail-
able in different languages. Scattered round the place there are head-with-headphones
symbols with numbers underneath; you key the number into the phone-like Audio Guide
and listen to the solid-state recorded patter.
There are really two tours here; this one with the hand-stick thing of Dewar's World
of Whisky, then a more conventional distillery tour with a human guide. The W of W tour
really starts with a good, not too embarrassing video which is shown in an auditorium
that looks a lot like the sort of private film theatre I imagine Third World dictators have in
their palaces; lots of red draping with fake white columns round the inset walls, with the
three-part semi-wraparound screen - quite effectively used in the presentation - framed
in scrolled gilt. This is very much just one side of tasteless but I can't entirely decide
which. Actually I can, but it doesn't matter because once you leave the Auditorium and
are batched into the rest of the display space, the glitz turns out to be entirely appropriate
to the life of Tommy Dewar, the man and retail genius who really set the whole kit and
indeed caboodle going in the first place, a century and a half ago.
There's a darkly opulent study recreated in here, a blending room, lots of hands-on
computer stuff - create your own blend, play a whisky trivia game, zap an Excise man
in Speyside Invaders (okay I made that last one up), that sort of thing - and drawer after
drawer full of Dewar family and brand memorabilia. You get the distinct feeling that the
Dewars were not great ones for throwing things away. I fully expected to find a drawer
full of Tommy Dewar's old bus tickets. Perhaps I missed it.
The bulk of this genuinely fascinating display, however, is comprised of the Dewar's
brand advertising materials. Dewar's have always been right at the cutting edge of inter-
national advertising. They made the first whisky film advert in 1898 - a film Tommy had
projected onto a skyscraper in New York - they were one of the first to advertise on a bal-