Food Health History Politics

Letter from Scotland 2 – What Whisky Teaches Us About the World – and the Gospel

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.

World Lessons

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.

Spiritual Lessons

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?


  1. Hello David,

    Firstly a very good and happy 60th birthday to you and your good lady, and great 35th to Andrew, and remember that ‘Age is only an Attitude of Mind’, as the saying goes..!

    A very good tour of the fine distillery at Glenfarclas, with great exposition and comparisons to the time, the Kronos time, the purity, and the Spirit,,, and perhaps the ‘Angel’s share’ of that valuable 1953 cask has been well received..!

    Back in the day, some 500 years back, whisky was seen as being medicinal in the 1500’s onwards, in order to cure a number of ailments, way before penicillin, paracetamol etc etc were discovered .

    Like everything else sadly, the cost of a bottle or dram is likely to rise as a direct consequence of the war and conflict in Ukraine with all the supply and logistical knock-on effects that will encompass. However hopefully this will be reasonably short lived before some equilibrium returns to energy and logistics costs, by any means.

    Scotland’s exports of the ‘water of life’ (I am not going to spell out the Gaelic, although that is where the word ‘whisky’ comes from- ‘Iska ba’, phonetically..) runs to circa. £4.3bn per annum, and that is at cost, before taxes, duties, vat etc that importing countries may add…

    The most expensive single bottle of Scotch whisky sold thus far, I believe, was a 1926, 60yo Macallan bottled in 1986, which went at auction a few years ago for $1.9m or just under £1.5m, according to the exchange rate at the time..! I calculated that the bottle contents were ‘worth’ 1000 times the price of pure gold, weight for weight..!

    Anyways David, and as previously promised , I have a fine bottle of malt whisky to send you, appropriate for your birthday celebrations etc, and happy to post it from Glasgow to your son Andrew’s house in Dundee, if that would be convenient, and if you can kindly email me his address…

    Every blessing and enjoy your time back home in Scotland..!


  2. It’s always interesting to see Gospel parallels in ordinary things.

    I think you may have mixed up ethanol with methanol in your article.
    Ethanol is what is wanted in the heart of the distillation, methanol is the poisonous one that you don’t and is one of the chemicals that is in the head part of the distillation.

  3. We have indeed a wonderful gospel , and I did as always appreciate the lessons given.

    On a more humorous note , I was looking for three gentlemen in the picture , or were you under the
    table ?

  4. I was looking at a natural gas price chart and noted the price was a lot higher back in 2005 and 2008. In fact, more than 50% higher and all I can remember today is a colleague moaning that his wife was using the tumble dryer too much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: