Dear Brothers and Sisters.,
Slowly recovering from the lurgy – but thankful that we were able to make it to Aviemore to celebrate mine and Annabel’s 60th birthdays and our son Andrew’s 35th. It was a wonderful time with family and friends. The Rowan Tree hotel was a quaint, traditional and pleasant hotel. Part of which was a visit to the Glenfarclas distillery in Speyside. As we were shown round (highly recommended by the way) it struck me that there are lessons for us to learn – both about the world and the gospel.
1) Whisky shows us that the cost of living crisis is going to get really serious. We were told that Glenfarclas had a gas bill of £80,000 per month – a couple of months ago. Now it is £300,000. The policies over the war in Ukraine, Covid and Climate Change are causing this. Whilst this is important for the distillery and the many jobs they support – it is even more significant for the poor. Fuel bills multiplying four times will create havoc. I hope the middle class Greens will be happy at the devastation their policies will cause.
2) Climate Change is affecting everything – but often not in the ways we are told. The distillery depends on water. Speyside is one of the driest areas in Scotland. We were told that Climate Change would make us wetter – but that is not happening. The mill has not turned this winter.
3) The Ukraine war is going to have devastating impacts on the economy and on the poor. We can find billions to send weapons to kill Russians – but we struggle to find money to feed our own people. Whisky is such a big industry in Scotland – worth billions every year – that the farms cannot provide enough barley. So the distilleries buy in from Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Trouble is coming. Again this is significant for the distillery – but vastly more important for the poor.
1) Fruit takes time. Glenfarclas (Glen of the green) produces 3 million litres per year. It takes a long time. The people who set up this distillery had a vision for the longer term. With whisky there is no immediate return. You sow the seed and wait.
2) Purity is important. There is a triple threshing in the process of preparing the malt. One phrase struck me about the process of distillation. It involved head, heart and tail. “we don’t want any ethanol in the heart”. Ethanol is dangerous and poisonous. That is the same as sin. We don’t want any sin in the heart. Purity in the heart is essential. And it may take a long and painful process. I was also intrigued at the statement from the guide: “the bigger you make the heart the better you make the spirit’! And also that the purpose was to ensure that there was the same pure taste with each one. You can draw your own lessons!
3) Maturity is precious. We saw one barrel that was from 1953. It was insured for £4 million! The interesting thing is that over the years the alcohol content had dropped from 68% to 44% (when it gets to below 40% it can no longer be sold as whisky) – but it is holding and increasing its value.
4) Renewal is possible – The tasting room is made from the remnant of the SS Australia – a ship which was used in the Far East. However it was rescued by the owner of the distillery and turned into the wonderful visitor centre. I love the fact that in the Gospel we are given this wonderful promise of renewal and revitalisation.
5) In Gaelic whisky is called the water of life. It isn’t. We need the real water of life – Jesus Christ. All who thirst should come to him….he is the well that will never run dry.
Maybe you think I’m reading too much into all this – but these were the thoughts that went through my mind….See you next week….
Yours in Christ
Here are some other photos from our tour
Letter from Scotland 1 – The Church of Scotland – the Final Nail?