Who Said What about Scottish Whisky? 



When the Lowlanders want to drink a cheer-upping cup, they go to the public house called the Change House, and call for a chopin of twopenny, which is a thin yeasty beverage made of malt, not quite so strong as the table-beer of England...the Highlanders, on the contrary, despise this liquor, and regale themselves with whisky, a malt spirit, as strong as geneva, which they swallow in great quantities, without any signs of inebriation: they are used to it from the cradle, and find it an excellent preservative against the winter cold, which must be extreme on these mountains--I am told that it is given with great success to infants, as a cordial, in the confluent smallpox, when the eruption seems to flag, and the symptoms grow unfavorable. —-Tobias Smollet (1721-1771) Humphrey Clinker

Whisky bottle gift cartons

A " dram" was the first article of hospitality presented to a stranger on entering a Highland hut. Not, however, till after the subjugation of the Highlands and the amalgamation of the two peoples, did whisky come to be regarded as a Lowland Scottish drink. —-Old-world Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923

The whisky of this country is a most rascally liquor; and by consequence only drank by the most rascally part of the inhabitants. —-Robert Burns, Letter to Mr John Tennant, 22 December 1788

Here’s to good old Whisky
So Amber and so clear,
’Tis not so sweet as woman’s lips,
But a d____d sight more sincere

May the bloom of the face never extend to the nose.

May the beam in the glass never destroy the ray in the mind.

Honor, love, fame, wealth may desert us, but thirst is eternal

May this be our maxim wher’er we are twirl’d,
’A fig for the cares of this whirl-a-gig world.’

— Anonymous
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Once a race has made choice of its liquor, it clings thereto with a more than superstitious tenacity, and may be induced to change even its religion with less reluctance and a lighter sense of misgiving...Perhaps in some degree responsible for his stamina, whisky even more than Calvinism has been his main discipline and inspiration. —-Old-World Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923

There are two things that a Highlander likes naked, and one is malt whisky. —-Anonymous

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The excessive drinking indulged in at Lowland funerals in the eighteenth century seems to have been coincident with the transition from ale to whisky. The provision of refreshments was in many cases a necessity, on account of the long distances some mourners had to come.

The ordinary was originally ale, with bread and cheese; but when whisky began to be supplied on the same bounteous scale as the milder beverage, the consequences were sometimes appallingly ludicrous and sometimes hideously indecent....In 1616 the funeral expenses of Sir Hugh Campbell of Calder amounted to £l,647 16s. 4d., Scots, of which no less than a fourth went in whisky. —-Old-world Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923

It maks a body cheerie
Or maks a body greet:
It maks a body steerie
Or ca’s ye aff your feet.
It maks a body canty
Or maks a body glum:
It maks a body ranty
Or maks ye unco mum (Drink)
— William Soutar quoted in The Scots Cellar, Its Traditions and Lore by F. Marian McNeill, 1956

Scotland has in its power to give the world such whisky as few can dream of; and the world would again be better...With such whisky to help it, the world would grow kindlier and more wise, aware of beauty and comforted with friends. —-Eric Linklater: The Lion and the Unicorn, 1935

The ruddy complexion, nimbleness and strength of these people is not owing to water-drinking b ut to the aqua vita, a malt spirit which is commonly used in that country. —-An Exciseman ( tax collector) writing in 1736

We are na fou, we’re that fou,
But just a drappie in our ee;
The cock may craw, the day may daw,
But ay we’ll taste the barley bree.
— Robert Burns

Whisky has made us what we are. It goes with our climate and with our nature. It rekindles old fires in us, our hatred of cant and privilege, our conviviality, our sense of nationhood, and, above all, our love of Scotland. ——R.H. Bruce Lockhart


Oh thou demon Drink, thou fell destroyer,
Thou curse of society, and its greatest annoyer.
What hast thou done to society, let me think?
I answer thou has caused the most of ills, thou demon Drink.

Thou causest the mother to neglect her child,
Also the father to act as he were wild,
So that he neglects his loving wife and family dear,
By spending his earnings foolishly on whisky, rum and beer.
— ..William Topaz McGonagall, The Demon Drink 

How did it happen that the Picts passed away, like Shakespeare's cloud-capped towers and solemn temples, leaving not a wrack behind? As the Maglemosians vanished before them? And as the Gael is ebbing away after them with the utter inevitability of an uncorked bottle? Can it be - horror! - that the white logic of the water of life [whisky] reflects the face of civilization as the face of an idiot-Narcissus? That the whole game is not worth putting the cork back for? Have I stumbled here by chance on what whisky has really meant to Scotland? —-©Neil M. Gunn, Whisky and Scotland, 1935 Routledge





He found that learnin,’ fame,
Gas, philanthropy and ‘steam,
Logic, loyalty, gude name,
Were a’ mere shams,
That the source of joy below,
An’ the antidote to woe,
An’ the only proper go,
Was drinkin’ drams.
— George Outram

This swift and fiery spirit...belongs to the alchemist's den and to the long nights shot with cold, flickering beams; it is compact of Druid spells and Sabbaths (of the witches and the Calvinists); its graces are not shameless, Latin, and abundant, but have a sovereign austerity, whether the desert's or the north wind's; there are flavours in it, insinuating and remote, from mountain torrents and the scanty soil on moorland rocks and slanting, rare sun-shafts......Aeneas MacDonald

Whisky is still of course produced in the traditional way, in lofts and bathrooms throughout the Highlands and Islands. A set of bagpipes, filled with barley mash, is plumbed into the peat-fired water-heating system and allowed to gurgle away in peace for several years, its magic to perform.——Scotland For Beginners, 1314 an’ a’ that, by Rupert Besley, 2001


Puir Scotland’s scaith is whisky rife,
The very king o’ curses;
Breeds ilka ill, care, trouble, strife,
Ruins health and empties purses.
It fills a peaceful land wi’ strife,
The ale-house fills wi’ roarin’;
It fills wi’ broils domestic life,
An’ fills the kirk wi’ snoarin’.

“Twas on a bonny morn in May,
Two three chiels did forgather,
The night before they’d gane astray,
And were a’ drunk thegither;
Wi’ pain their pows were like to part,
Their very tongues did russel;
Wi’ shilpit look and shiverin’ heart,
And throats as dry’s a whissel.

O for a drink of something cool,
Says ae, for I’m maist faintin’
Then let’s go in, another says,
For my puir head’s just rentin.
And I’ve the very best receipt,
The stomach fumes to scatter;
Then loose nae time and let us get
A waught o’ Soda Water.

Water will never do, says ane,
Gie me some cheee that’s mittie,
And then a bumper o’ good gin,
Or sterline aquavite;
To make you right this is the plan,
“Twill make you fair and fatter;
But says the chiel that first began,
There’s nought like Soda Water.

If Soda Water be sae good,
Gang ye ad drink your fill;
But I wad hae it understood,
That I’d prefer a gill;
Water’s a blessing, nae doubt, fixt,
And may it ne’er be missing;
But when wi’ whisky it is mixt,
It’s then a double blessing.

On fixed air the hale house rang,
And pointed observations,
For some were right and some were wrang,
And some were out o’ patience.
Ye dinna seem to be in haste,
For a’ your chitter chatter;
Come bring it in, and let us taste
This self same Soda Water.

Unto ilk ma a bottle’s plac’d,
In silent expectation,
That they wad better be in haste
After so much oratin;
It’s just to be, or not to be,
To take an unkenn’d doze,
Short sighted man can hardly see
An inch before his nose.

I’ll ask a favour frae ilk man,
And ye will surely grant it,
To drink it up as quick’s you can,
Nor take time to decant it;
Like bugle-horns then in a raw,
They glower up to the lift,
And it was hardly down when twa
O’ them began to rift.

That’s curious stuff, it’s made me weel
I ne’er drank this before,
Wi’ that the Soda Water chiel
Got up wi’ sic a roar;
I’m gone, I’m poison’d, fatal drink!
For me there is no cure,
When o’er his cheeks, black streams like ink
Ran gushing to the floor.

He held the bottle up to break,
Nae langer life expeckin’
Syne read the label rough its neck,
The Real Japan Blackin;
He’s ill before, but now he’s worse,
Wi’ gut and ga’ he’s partin,’
And ‘twisxt ilk boak he gaed a curse
Against real Day and Martin
— Anonymous

These generous whiskies [the single ones] with their individual flavours, recall the world of hills and glens, of raging elements, of shelter, of divine ease. The perfect moment of their reception is after bodily stress--or mental stress, if the body be sound. The essential oils that wind in the glass then uncurl their long fingers in lingering benediction and the whole works of creation are made manifest. At such moment the basest man would bless his enemy. —-Neil Gunn

Whisky, and that of the crudest and most shuddering quality, is undoubtedly the Scotchman's peculiar vanity. The amount that he can consume without turning a hair is quite appalling. I have seen a Scothman drink three bottles of Glenlivet on a railway journey from King's Cross [LONDON] to Edinburgh, and when he got out at Edinburgh, he strutted doucely to the refreshment bar and demanded further whisky. ——Thomas William Hodgson Crosland, The Unspeakable Scot, Grant Richards publishers,London, © 1902