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Letter from Scotland – A tale of Tartan, Leith and Whisky – Andrew Skene

Whisky, Tartan and Golf are probably the three most recognisable icons of Scotland and the port of Leith can lay a claim to all three!

Leith is a town on the Firth of Forth just north of Edinburgh (Scotland’s capital) and it has seen an amazing history with many important events taking place in this port town which up until 1920 was a separate burgh to Edinburgh.

Aside from the turbulent history, it has been a wine storage location as far back as the 16th century, the first official rules of golf were drawn up in Leith in 1744 and at one time up to 90% of all Scotch Whisky was aged in Leith!

1.PORTERS STONE Dated 1678 showing wine casks being unloaded from a boat

1.PORTERS STONE Dated 1678 showing wine casks being unloaded from a boat

Whisky & the Port of Leith

Amongst the many exotic products that came through the port were the wines of Jerez and Leith was a major warehousing location for the casks that were shipped into Scotland.

In typically canny fashion, once emptied, these casks were used as storage and transport containers for whisky and it became increasingly apparent that it benefited the spirit greatly. The sweet notes left behind in the wood were imparted into the whisky and created a flavour like no other.

Ex Wine Casks

2. EX-WINE CASKS BEING USED FOR TRANSPORTATION OF SCOTCH WHISKY

As the 19th century wore on, the port of Leith became the centre of the industry as bottlers, blenders and merchants built their warehouses and offices around the burgeoning numbers of distilleries that sprung up. Customs and Excise, amongst other government departments connected to the industry were also located nearby in Edinburgh.

Leith

3.19th CENTURY MAP OF LEITH SHOWING INFLUENCE OF SCOTCH WHJSKY ON THE PORT

The big distilleries may have long since disappeared like the angel’s share, but the port continues to do business in the rectifying, blending, bonding and exporting of Scotch. The spirit is still very much alive and well.

The Tartan Connection

Tartan Connection

Figure 4. KING GEORGE IV IN KILT

It is not known when tartan was first created in Scotland but there are prints and carvings dating back to the early 16th century showing the Highlander of Scotland wearing this dress. After many years of trying to calm the warring Highland clans, the English banned the wearing of tartan and highland dress in 1746.

Although the ban was repealed in 1782 it was not King George the IV arrived in Leith in 1822 (the first monarch to step foot in Scotland for nearly 2 centuries) wearing a kilt and full Highland Dress that the tartan kilt was elevated to be part of a full Scottish identity.

Figure 5. KING GEORGE IV ARRIVING IN LEITH 1822

Figure 5. KING GEORGE IV ARRIVING IN LEITH 1822

Kinloch AndersonKinloch Anderson (based in Dock Street, Leith), now in the sixth generation of family management, has been known and respected in Scotland’s capital city as the foremost experts in tartans and Highland Dress since 1868. The company are proud holders of Royal Warrants of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

The company’s products have always reflected the pride they take in Scotland’s capital and nowhere has been more vital to Edinburgh’s development than the port of Leith. In 1995 the company produced a tartan that reflects Leith’s heritage and in summer 2016 they bottled a Scotch Whisky that is as close to a classic Scotch Whisky as close to the style produced two centuries earlier – a 35 year old Blend aged in an ex-oloroso cask and hand bottled free from artificial additives or colouring and has not undergone the process of chill-filtration.

KINLOCH ANDERSON 35 YEAR OLD SMALL BATCH BLEND

TASTING NOTES BY CHARLES MACLEAN

Cask No: 198408 -1 of 498 bottles

Kinloch Anderson 1

Nose: Rich fruits intermingled with the Sherry flavour. Sweet and spicy oak. Figs in syrup. Palate: Full-bodied. Again rich and fruity. Beautifully balanced sweetness working with the oak. Rich malt flavours and mouth-coating. Finish: A rich explosion of sweet fruits in the finish. Again perfect balance of flavours and a long, rich aftertaste.

THE LEITH TARTAN Packaged in the Leith tartan, this tartan was designed in 1995 by Kinloch Anderson and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.

The symbolism of the colours is as follows: Ancient Blue and Navy to represent the sea and maritime connections. Green signifies the association with Leith Links, the original site of the game of golf. Red recalls the renowned wine and whisky trade around the world from the Port of Leith.

Andrew Skene

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