Let's play a game about brands.

We'll say 'Scotland' and you say the first thing that comes into your head.

So who said something to do with whisky? Or golf, or posh woollen sweaters?

But what about neon gin, red-hot games, miniature spacecraft or a food container that could help solve the world's plastics problem?

Barry Didcock knocks the cliches on their collective head and seeks out some of the coolest brands doing the coolest stuff in Scotland today ...

1 BrewDog

Founded in Fraserburgh in 2007 by friends James Watt and Martin Dickie, both then just 24, BrewDog has taken two things at which Scotland excels – brewing and ballsy entrepreneurialism – and combined them to build a mini drinks empire in just over a decade.

You can still sample a flavour of its DIY punk ethos in beer names such as Cocoa Psycho, Elvis Juice and, of course, its popular Punk IPA – though these days the company is an international concern with the financial clout to prove it.

BrewDog currently exports to around 60 countries, has over 70 bars around the world and just last month it opened two more – one in Edinburgh Airport and another, the smallest to date, in Perth.

2 Mackintosh

It’s true that these days when you ask someone if they packed their Mac they’ll reach into their rucksack’s laptop pocket and pull out a wafer-thin MacBook Air.

But that wasn’t always the case: for decades the word was synonymous with the waterproof rainwear produced using a process discovered by Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh. Somewhere along the line a k was added to his surname and the Mackintosh as we know it was born.

The coats are still made in the firm’s factory outside Glasgow and over the years the company has supplied everyone from the British Army to British Rail. But the brand is better known today for its high-end bags, trousers, jackets and knitwear, and for collaborations with the likes of luxury French fashion house Maison Margiela and hip Japanese bag-maker Porter.

All in all, much more impressive than a MacBook Air.

3 Electric Spirit Co

With its signature gin, Achroous, coming packaged in a neon orange bottle and a recent one-off venture christened Not Another Effing Gin, it’s clear that there’s nothing stuffy or formal or establishmenty (is that a word?) about Edinburgh’s Electric Spirit Co, one of the companies at the leading edge of Scotland’s recent craft gin boom.

Founded in 2015 by distiller James Porteous, whose other trades include photographer and product designer, the company produces Achroous from its Tower Street Stillhouse.

The name of the gin, by the way, is derived from the Ancient Greek word for colourless and, in his exemplary 101 Gins To Try Before You Die, gin expert Ian Buxton hails Achroous’s blend of juniper, coriander, fennel seed, Sichuan peppercorns, liquorice and angelica and orris root, and describes it as “spiced and complex ... with attractive citrus and floral notes”.

4 Irn-Bru

It may not have much purchase in areas where there aren’t significant numbers of Scots but show the famous orange and blue can to anyone familiar with the culture and culinary delights of our northern latitudes and you’re assured a response. Usually of the misty-eyed and wistful variety.

Not for nothing is the fizzy, ginger-coloured confection known as Scotland’s “other” national drink.

Like all the best soft drinks, the recipe is guarded closely by Cumbernauld-based maker AG Barr – though the odd ingredient has been named over the years, such as in 2009 when Robin Barr confirmed that Irn-Bru does contain small amounts of ammonium ferric citrate.

Made in Scotland from girders? You betcha.

5 Rockstar North

It has had several name changes since it was founded in Dundee in the 1980s but it’s as Rockstar North that the gaming behemoth is best known.

Now headquartered in the Edinburgh building that once housed The Scotsman, its reputation was made with its Grand Theft Auto series, which debuted in 1997, though you can’t fail to have noticed the adverts for its most recent offering, Red Dead Redemption 2, a game set in the Wild West of American folklore.

If there was a bus or a billboard in the country which wasn’t carrying an ad for it over the last few months, it must have been an oversight.

6 Social Bite

Not exactly a brand, perhaps, but what started out as an idea to open “a sandwich shop with a difference” has since become a pioneering movement which has attracted global attention and is now moving into areas other than soups, hot meals and the humble lunchtime piece.

Founded in Edinburgh in 2012 by former Edinburgh University students Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson, its original aim was to take the idea of social enterprise – not-for-profit schemes that aim to do some social good, in this case to alleviate homelessness – and apply it to a sandwich shop. The first one opened in Edinburgh’s Rose Street and there are now four more as well as a restaurant and the groundbreaking Social Bite Village, where specially designed low-cost homes offer a safe community environment for homeless people.

In December 2017, Social Bite also organised the world’s largest sleep-out, Sleep In The Park, in which 8,000 people slept rough in Princes Street Gardens to raise awareness and funds. A second event was held late last year.

Among those lending their considerable star power to Social Bite’s activities are two of its most high-profile customers: George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have both visited Social Bite shops.

7 Alba Orbital

Small is beautiful – at least in space, where payloads cost more per kilogramme than gold does on earth.

With that in mind, one of the companies leading the fight to pack as much punch into as little space as possible is Glasgow-based Alba Orbital, a manufacturer of so-called PocketQubes.

Its Unicorn 2 PocketQube has been developed in conjunction with the European Space Agency and is just the latest technological achievement from the Scottish space industry, which employs 7,000 people and turns over £2.5 billion annually.

8 Walker Slater

For proof that the successful marriage of textiles and tailoring doesn’t have to have a centuries-old backstory, look no further than Walker Slater. Founded in the Highlands in 1989 by Paul Walker and business partner Frances Slater, the company takes traditional Scottish materials (think tweed, lots of it) and gives it an oh-so-subtle modern twist.

The result is a range of gorgeous, vibrant three-piece suits, coats and hats which have made the firm’s quaint premises in Edinburgh’s picturesque Victoria Street the go-to destination for discerning tourists and locals, or for anyone else with a penchant for dressing like a 21st-century dandy.

And it isn’t just the gentlemen who benefit: further down the same street is Walker Slater’s women’s branch.

9 Linn

In 1973, Gorbals-born engineer and music lover Ivor Tiefenbrun had a brainwave. The how and the where and why don’t really matter but the result was a turntable – he called it the Sondek LP12 – with the potential to revolutionise how we listen to and experience recorded music. And so was born Linn, a company specialising in high-end hi-fi equipment and still doing so today. It’s still innovating too: in 2007, it produced equipment for digital music streaming and it’s also diversified into the music business with Linn Records.

It specialises in classical artists mostly, though alongside acts such as Alfie Boe, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Hebrides Ensemble you’ll find folk (Karine Polwart), jazz (Tommy Smith) and electronica (William Orbit).

10 Hunter

Where would you be without your Hunter wellies? Okay, Billy Connolly didn’t quite have this particular brand of iconic footwear in mind when he sang the Welly Boot Song but for generations they’ve been a staple of the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ brigade on both sides of the Border.

For most of this century they’ve been de rigueur for city hipsters too, thanks mainly to celebrities such as Kate Moss wearing them to negotiate Glastonbury’s mud during festival season.

The company itself dates back to the mid-19th century and originally made tyres as well as waterproof boots for the army.

But the wellies we recognise today, with their trademark heel, first made an appearance in 1955 – though not in red, purple, neon yellow, bubble-gum pink or any of the many other colours you can buy them in today.

11 Vegware

Established in Edinburgh in 2006, Vegware describes itself as a “visionary brand” and in many senses it’s hard to argue.

With 2018 being the year popular opinion really started to turn against plastics, the company’s decade spent providing plant-based compostable food packaging looks like time well spent.

And as the political class finally catches up with public opinion and chews over such initiatives as banning straws and cotton buds, they might find their doing the chewing over a lunch served in a Vegware container – the company already supplies the Westminster estate with compostable Vegware disposables.