One of the world's most prominent whisky experts says more should be done to celebrate the worldwide success of Scotland's national drink.

Blair Bowman is a whisky consultant and broker who was named number three in the Top 100 Most Influential People in Drinks 2023.

He believes a product which the nation leads the world in should be talked up at every opportunity, providing as it does jobs for rural communities and an attraction for tourists.

Mr Bowman told The Herald: "It’s an amazing industry, we should all be extremely proud of Scottish whisky and I think everything should be done to champion it in all sectors.

“Obviously Scotland does have challenges with alcohol but it’s not unique in that sense and it’s a small number of people. There is support and there’s a lot being done to support people who do have dependency issues.

“There’s a lot on the other side that’s extremely positive. You think about where a lot of these distilleries are located and they’re very, very rural communities. If those distilleries weren’t based in that place there might not be much employment.

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“In the 1980s there was a big downturn in the industry which created a lot of issues, so I hope we can continue to ride this wave the whisky industry is on and it looks like there’s a lot of good investment in place for the future.

"It’s evident to anyone that Scotch whisky is an amazing success story.

“It’s at the top of the pyramid of whiskies around the world, other countries all look to Scotland when they’re making whisky.

“I’ve been involved with new distilleries all over the world who are all inspired by Scotland and make whisky in their place with their own people - but using the Scotch whisky regulations.

“Everybody aspires to be Scotch whisky.

"An interesting stat' I was told a while ago was that before Coca-Cola had exported their very first bottle from America to Europe, Johnnie Walker was already in 100 countries.

“You can go into any bar in the world and there will be some form of Scotch whisky available and you can’t necessarily say that about other spirits that have a geographical indication.

The Herald:

“I think one of the reasons Scottish whisky has this pull is that it has such a broad spectrum of flavours and our sense of smell and olfactory system is very much connected to our memories.

“You can be immediately transported back to Scotland even if you’re on the other side of the world."

The industry is also crucial in not only enticing people to visit, but in promoting 'Brand Scotland' around the world.

In an episode of NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, the character Ron Swanson visits the distillery of his favourite whisky, Lagavulin, on Islay before reciting a Robert Burns poem on the clifftops as bagpipes play in the background.

The clip is on YouTube and is flooded with people from around the world declaring their desire to visit Scotland.

Mr Bowman says: "It has that appeal globally, it really does have this amazing appeal and it can bring people together.

“I’ve shared whiskies with people where we don’t share the same language but you get that togetherness and it doesn’t matter where someone is from, their background, their age – as long as they’re over the drinking age – their gender, their identity, everyone can share whisky.

"There’s been huge change in my time. When I first got into whisky as a student at Aberdeen University and helped set up a whisky club we would go out to Speyside and sometimes the tour would be that you’d sit down in a room, watch a video from the 1990s, get shuttled round the building and then get rammed through the gift shop: ‘here’s a dram, away you go’ kind of thing.

“That’s not the case at all anymore, I think all the brands are putting a lot of effort into investing into the visitor experience, realising that for a lot of people it genuinely is like a privilege.

“It’s quite an emotional thing for someone to go to where their favourite whisky is. If they’ve consumed that on the other side of the world their whole life and they’re suddenly in the place where it’s made, tasting it in the warehouse where it matures straight from the cask, it’s an incredible, magical moment.

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"We’ve seen the number of visitors to distilleries shooting up and it’s regularly quoted in the Visit Scotland stats as being one of the main reasons for a lot of people coming to Scotland.

“I think that’s something that’s definitely changed in the last decade and it’s great to see, and I think the level of investment in things like the Johnnie Walker Experience make it a kind of gateway.

“It helps people come into whisky in a very welcoming way, whisky can be seen as very snobby, or intimidating, or old-fashioned, or stuffy – the ‘it’s only men in tweed who drink it’ kind of attitude has gone, thankfully, but it’s taken a while to shift that.

“The industry was pretty old school for a while but brands are realising there’s a lot of fun you can have with whisky cocktails and that can be a really great way for people to get their first taste of whisky.

“There are 147 active distilleries which is very overwhelming if you don’t know how to pronounce them, you go into a bar and there’s more choice than ever before but if you’re new to that how do you get into it.

“Even when I first started in the industry it was blasphemous still, you couldn’t mix a single malt. It was completely outlawed even by some brand managers who told me they didn’t want me using their whisky at an event I was hosting in a cocktail - even though it was absolutely delicious and it was a great way to introduce people to whisky.

“Thankfully that attitude has changed but there’s still a way to go, there’s still a kind of prevalence in Scotland and the wider UK of this baggage that Scotch whisky is precious and you can’t mess with it, you can only make a cocktail if it’s a single malt.

“If we were ordering coffee, you might have a coffee with milk and I might have a cappuccino and I might add sugar to it and none of us would judge each other on that and neither would the staff.

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“But if you’re at a bar or restaurant and someone orders a whisky with soda water, or a whisky with ginger beer, or a whisky with coke, people might go ‘can you do that? Can you mix a Lagavulin with coke?’.

“Actually, it’s absolutely delicious having a Lagavulin with Coca-Cola, it’s got the richness of the whisky, the vanilla of the coke – it’s an amazing drink.

“But even bar staff might say ‘oh I don’t think I can do that with a Lagavulin’ and I don’t know where that has come from because that is only in the UK.

"We all drink coffee in our own unique ways and don’t judge each other on that, so if someone says they’re having a 50-year-old single malt with coke then have at it. It’ll be absolutely delicious if it’s made well.

“If it’s a nice bar, nice glassware, really high quality ice, high quality mixer, high quality whisky – if you’re combining great ingredients you’re going to get a great outcome so why shouldn’t people be encouraged to do that?"