Saturday, April 28, 2007


Picture whisky-making and the imagination leads you to a white-washed building half way up a glen, with the traditional pagoda roof and a horny-toed son of the soil rolling a barrel across a cobbled courtyard to a damp and dark warehouse.

Not like that on Thursday when nine souls toured the Diageo bottling plant at Shieldhall, courtesy of James Thomson. This is whisky making on an industrial scale – 23 million cases of Johnnie Walker Red and Black, J&B, Bells and Vat 69 rolled off an assembly line last year.

You may well have passed in on your way to the airport. It sits beside IKEA and opposite Braehead and it’s basically a factory dedicated to pumping out high-quality whisky.

From the moment the cigar-shaped spirit tanker drops its pre-blended spirit off, to the time when pallets of whisky are loaded on to artics, a mere six hours elapse.

We spent four of those hours having a wander round with James, dressed in the shiny yellow vests that lollipop men and women wear. As you can see from the pic, the camera doesn't really like them!

We climbed to the top of the vast storage vats where Ralf had a close encounter with buckets of caramel and lived to tell the tale, and down to the bottling hall, where a Disney World theme park of bottles and boxes amused several grown men for several minutes at a time.

Back to the admin offices for a wee spiel and a couple of glasses of Red and Black, then we went shopping. Suffice to say the Diageo shop ain’t like something you’ll find on Buchanan Street, but for some reason, no-one was in too much of a hurry to leave. The shop assistants coped well with the demands of clubsters, including at least two proposals of marriage!

Many thanks to James and all at Diageo for a really interesting day.