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[GÄSTKRÖNIKA] John McDougall har jobbat inom whiskybranschen i över 40 år. Som ung chef skickades han ut till Islay på uppdrag av Long John International för att modernisera Laphroaig. Förändringsarbetet mötte motstånd, men trägen vinner, det eftersatta destilleriet gick stärkt ur stålbadet och den unge chefen vann så småningom mannarnas förtroende. Fast julafton 1971 började illa, glatt salongsberusad stövlar John genom blomsterlådorna i sin trädgård...
Ett stycke Islay-liv ur John McDougalls självbiografi "Worts, Whisky & Wisdom" .

Becoming an Illeach
 
By Christmas 1971 I was beginning to feel good about the way life was going at Laphroaig, and Kay's parents came over from Elgin to Islay for the first time to spend the festive season with us. They flew into Islay around lunchtime on Christmas Eve and were taken to Tigh na Garadh, while I was busy fulfilling my Yuletide role as the bountiful manager dispensing drams to his workforce. At 2pm, the morning shift went off duty and so before leaving the distillery they turned up at the 'dramming table' in the recreation hall for their measure of 15 Y/O Laphroaig. I, of course, joined them in a drink and wished them well for Christmas. At half past four, the day men finished work and the process was repeated, and the same thing happened again with the back-shift workers who were allowed to leave at around six o'clock as it was Christmas Eve. After my six o'clock dram I was feeling in pretty good order, for these were not 'bartender's measures' we were consuming. Far from it, these were 'gentlemen's measures'.

The garden of my house was situated about 50 yards from the recreation hall, and so after the final round of dramming I set off on the short journey home to Kay and the in-laws. As I made my way across the garden I was puzzled by the large pools of ice which had unaccountably formed during the afternoon, and which I duly smashed with my heels as I progressed towards the back door. Alerted by the sound of this activity, Kay and her parents were waiting by the door for me, and their welcome was not warm, though I'm sure I was smiling quite happily at them. It turned out that what I had very reasonably supposed to be sheets of ice were, in fact, a series of cold frames, the pride and joy of John McNeil, the gardener. Kay's father suggested rather brusquely that the best place for me would be my bed, and given the atmosphere, I was inclined to agree. My purgatory was not over yet, however. As I made my way through the kitchen Kay's mother fixed me with a stare and said, "And I suppose this colour scheme was your idea ?"
Matters were made worse by the fact that Hamish Campbell had accompanied me home from the distillery, and all this took place in front of him. Perhaps he didn't know that my home life wasn't always like this, or perhaps the effect of the drams meant that he didn't even notice. Hospitality dictated that Hamish be invited in, introduced to a merry company and given another dram, and then another. My father-in-law became better disposed towards me after a couple of drinks, and I think his initial reaction to my homecoming had been motivated by jealousy, as he had travelled from Elgin to Islay and then spent the afternoon with nothing stronger than tea to sustain him. I'm sure he'd expected me to arrive home and break open a bottle much sooner than I had, as he was very fond of a dram himself. After a time, Hamish's wife Betty appeared at our door asking for her husband, and said to him, "Will you come out of there you great galoot and leave these good people alone." Turning to Kay as she left she said quietly, "I think perhaps it would be best if Mr McDougall didn't go out tonight." Not much chance of that, I thought, even if my legs had been working properly. By this time my father-in-law was loudly singing Granny's Hielan' Hame, and I decided to act on all the good advice and head for bed.

Kay's parents left between Christmas and New Year, which was probably just as well considering the exertions of Hogmanay that lay before us. Kay and I decided to have a quiet Hogmanay dinner together at home, which we duly did with Jonathan tucked up in his bed. We saw New Year in quietly with a couple of drams of Laphroaig, but no sooner had we heard Big Ben chiming midnight on the telly than half a dozen of the distillery workers arrived to wish us Happy New Year. They came in, appropriated the record player and started to play 78's of Scottish dance music. Kay got out the shortbread and I opened a bottle of Laphroaig. The party had begun. By 3am Kay decided it was time for her bed, but we felt that I should go and firstfoot the people in the distillery village.
There were 12 cottages and we only missed out one or two, which meant another ten generous drams on top of the dozen or so I had previously consumed. I finally ended up in a cottage in which the Mackinnon family lived. Norman Mackinnon was a maltman, and having previously been a plumber he had carried out a number of plumbing and heating-related improvements to his home. He insisted, in the deliberate way of one who had enjoyed some refreshments, in showing me in great details the work he had done. This began around 5am, and continued for some three hours, when it was decided that breakfast would be a good idea. Norman's wife Fiona had cooked a chicken the previous day for New Year's Day lunch, but it was the only piece of food Norman was capable of locating by this stage of proceedings, so the four or five of us who were present began to dismember and devour the fowl. We were enjoying our slightly unorthodox breakfast when Fiona appeared in her nightie, slightly less than happy at the sight which greeted her. I offered her a dram to placate her, but for some reason this didn't seem to help, and I was asked to leave the premises, along with my fellow revellers. The way things were going, I'm surprised Norman wasn't asked to leave home! We then moved on to Hamish Campbell's house, where his wife Betty was prepared to take me up on my offer of a drink, and was quite happy for the party to resume there. The party continued all day, with Kay and Jonathan arriving to look for me in the middle of the afternoon, when her initial irritation was soothed with some Laphroaig. And so the party continued.

The festivities contrasted quite sharply with the very quiet Hogmanay we had spent at the end of our first year on Islay, when we were still comparative newcomers to Laphroaig. This time around we were known and accepted as part of the community, and nobody was interested in your background or the fact that you were the manager. Everyone was equal, and what mattered was camaraderie, and this aspect of island life was something we came to value very much. Incidentally the story of the disappearing chicken did the rounds for a long time, and eventually entered Islay folklore. One of the great things about life on Islay was that you could be on first name terms with employees at ceilidhs and parties, yet at work you were always 'Mr McDougall'. This was not on my insistence, but was the way the staff themselves wanted it, and the relaxed informality of social occasions was never abused in the workplace.
One of the less popular moves I had to make was to reduce the Laphroaig workforce, as Bessie Campbell's policy of taking on anyone she felt sorry for had left us somewhat top-heavy in terms of labour. We cut back from 29 to 22, and eventually added another two again, to help cope with the increase in capacity. There was a lot of resentment at the cutbacks, not surprisingly, and some dark muttering that Mrs Campbell would never have done this, which, of course, was true enough. It really was a commercial necessity, however, and once the staff saw that their own futures were much brighter with all the changes being implemented, that the distillery's future was secure, their attitude began to soften.

-John McDougall


<-- Part I: Ringing the Changes at Islay

Köp John McDougalls memoarer i shoppen!

Every year over one million whisky lovers visit Scotland's distilleries and witness the making of Scotch malt whisky. There they are exposed to a professional facade behind which the day-to-day running of kilns, malting floors, stillhouses and tunrooms seamlessly engages to create one of Scotland's greatest gifts to humanity. Well, that's what they are told by the tour guides!
This is the 'other side' of the whisky industry about which no-one ever hears, recounted by a highly respected insider who has seen the industry in good times and in bad, and who finished his management days at the world-reknowned Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown.

<-- Signerat exemplar av Wort, Worms & Washbacks, pris: 199 kr



 

Publicerad: 5/22/2006
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