Travel Reference
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and landed awkwardly, doing something painful to my instep; limped the rest of the Con.
From two feet up! After my death-defying fourth-floor antics! I ask you!
The ignominy.
Time for a little stock-taking, as we head back home from Islay. It strikes me there are
different ways to get to know a country, or any complicated area or space. I feel I know
the landscape of Scotland fairly well; I've driven over most of it, flown over a lot of it,
walked various bits of it, sailed round and to and from various other areas, stayed in all
its cities and many of its towns, climbed a few of its mountains, boated on a couple of its
rivers and canoed a bit. I'm moderately well up on its history, though I could, probably
should, know a lot more. I think I have a reasonable grasp of the differences between the
various regions of Scotland, the variety of attitudes and accents you encounter, shading
gradually from one to another, as you travel from one part to another. I've talked to neds
and nobles, got sense and gibberish out of each and I've tried, admittedly not with any
great degree of intensity, to keep up with Scottish cultural life.
But there's always more. And there's always different. I guess a dedicated mountain-
eer, a Munro bagger, could have the same mixture of Scottish General Knowledge I've
just confessed to above, but have a radically different idea of what Scotland is, what it
represents, just because of their sport; they'd think of peaks unclimbed and climbed and
the vivid memories of specific routes and peaks; their image of Scotland's geography
would be biased towards the West, the centre and North-West (indeed its physical geo-
graphy would matter more than most other types of geography). I imagine a golfer has a
different view entirely, with their internal map of the land's most important areas being
almost an opposite of the mountaineer's, skewed to the South, the East and North-East.
A union organiser might have a mental chart that differed radically again, prioritising the
central industrial belt, or industry-specific sites like ports or electronics factories. Every
job, every field of academic study, every interest, gives people a biased internally fab-
ricated model of the country they inhabit, a weighting of meaning that will differ subtly
from every other person's and yet bear similarities of layout to those they share those
jobs, pastimes or hobbies with.
So whisky. More to the point, the making of it. The marketing of Scotch is everywhere
and its distribution worldwide, but its production is legally limited to Scotland, its focus
concentrated on this one relatively small country, and, within that small country, on barely
a hundred generally modest, usually out-of-the-way sites many of which employ only a
dozen or so people.
Of course, there's whiskey from Ireland, bourbon from the States and Japanese
whisky which is Scotch-in-all-but-name and they're fine drinks in their own terms (and,
as with individual whiskies, some are fine in absolute terms), but this is a book about
Scotch, about Scots, about Scotland, and getting to know about the making of whisky, its
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