Spirited Traveller: Scotch not the only game in Glasgow

Tue May 1, 2012 5:27am EDT
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By Kara Newman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - You can lead the locals to the whisky bar, but you can't make them drink.

That's the lesson to be learned in Glasgow. Just minutes outside of the city, Scotch whisky (no "e" in "whisky" here) distilleries dot the landscape. There's no question that Scotch is the iconic beverage, and visitors flock to this vibrant city to bend elbows in one of the city's many whisky bars and pubs.

But just try telling that to Glaswegians, who favor wine and "white spirits", namely vodka and gin, or perhaps a Tennent's Lager.

"Although white spirits sell in higher volumes in Glasgow (as elsewhere in the world)," says Iain McCallum, master of malts at Auchentoshan-, Bowmore- and Glen Garioch producer Morrison Bowmore Distillers, "There are a high number of whisky bars in Glasgow that people will visit from around the world. This can't be said of any other drink."

Further, he notes that the city's best bartenders are experimenting with whisky in cocktails, helping to boost local interest in darker spirits.

McCallum recommends the grand Blythswood Square Hotel (here) as a first stop for business travelers, especially if meetings are on the agenda.

"It's steeped in history; the building dates back to the early 19th century, and was the headquarters for the Royal Scottish Automobile Society from 1910 until 2002," he adds.

Mal Spence, the Blythswood's head bartender, says that gin-based cocktails lead his top cocktail sellers, while vodka "was and has been the most popular spirit over the years."   Continued...

A worker looks at a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky at the Diageo owned Shieldhall bottling plant in Glasgow, Scotland March 24, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir