The Troubling of the Waters - George MacKay Brown

There is much talk lately about Quoylay whisky, but the truth is, there were several different kinds of whisky in that island.

Tom of Seatter’s whisky was like a blowlamp flame in your throat, the reason being that there was no Seatter tradition of whisky-making. Tom merely scavenged odds and ends of technical information from here and there……..

Nobody ever got a chance to taste Paul Baikie’s whisky, because he and his three sons – dark unpopular men – drank it all themselves. It can’t have been good whisky, because when they were drunk the Baikie men were more morose than ever……..

The tinkers of Voe made a whisky. I would rather not speak about it. It was made apparently without vessels of any kind but wrung out of cloths heavy with distillation……..

Noah Folster made a whisky that was appreciated in cultured quarters. The laird said he could taste the peat of Keelylang in it. Mr Seward the teacher detected the unique loamy flavour of Quoylay grain……..

Mr McVey the minister said an empty jar of Noah Folster was like the death of a brilliant young poet………

Deaf Check’s whisky had a promising taste, but was always drunk too new. ‘Very old Orkney whisky,’ Check used to say to the ploughmen who visited him on a Saturday night, but in fact, it was never more than six or seven weeks old………..

Nowadays there is a licensed grocer at the cross-roads, a Mr MacFarlane from Dalkeith, where the island people buy their whisky in sealed bottles at two pounds one shilling and sixpence a bottle.

The full story can be found in the book A Calendar of Love and other stories.

This wonderful book is printed by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 978-1-904598-73-2

To buy contact ~

The brilliant Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown understands that whisky is part of the people who make it, and specific to its place of creation.

And subtly demonstrating that the world is poorer for the homogenisation of whisky making.

This island could be Islay…… it could be the land of Scotland. George Mackay Brown’s writing is on a literal level but also works on a far deeper level.

His stories are allegories, legends, and fables. His stories about people and what they do and how they live are very location specific, but also resonate with all people. The essences of us are the same ~ it is our physical location and relationships within that landscape that form our character ~ We are formed out of our landscapes, both internal and external. As are our whiskies.

As Alan Watts ~ British Philosopher ~ said:
‘You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here’.