PO­LAR NIGHTCAPS Blair Bow­man trav­els from pole to pole for a dram of the finest whisky

Tast­ing whiskies linked to the North and South Poles, Blair Bow­man shares a new per­spec­tive on Scot­land’s lat­est drams

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Afew weeks ago it dawned on me that I am prob­a­bly the only per­son to have been in­volved in whisky projects re­lat­ing to both the North and South Poles. I know this sounds slightly odd, but it is true. There have been two sep­a­rate whiskies re­leased in the last year that have con­nec­tions to the North and South Poles. You are prob­a­bly now won­der­ing what whisky has to do with the earth’s poles.

A cou­ple of years ago I spoke at a con­fer­ence in Ed­in­burgh and the speaker on stage be­fore me was Craig Mathieson, founder of the Po­lar Academy. The Po­lar Academy iden­ti­fies ‘in­vis­i­ble’ 14 to 17-year old sec­ondary school chil­dren, the type of teenagers who fly un­der the radar – they aren’t the mis­be­hav­ing type, they just kind of get on with things but per­haps have low self-es­teem. Craig works closely with teach­ers to iden­tify these teenagers and se­lects a handful of them to join him on a ten day ex­pe­di­tion to Green­land in the po­lar north. Be­fore the ex­pe­di­tion they must com­mit to a rig­or­ous ten month train­ing pro­gramme.

To say that the ex­pe­ri­ence com­pletely changes the phys­i­cal and men­tal strength of the teenagers is an un­der­state­ment. At the con­fer­ence peo­ple were nearly in tears hear­ing of how one boy, who had been on a bit of a rough path, changed his per­spec­tives af­ter com­plet­ing the ex­pe­di­tion. He be­came the first per­son in his fam­ily to go to univer­sity and is now train­ing to be a doc­tor. Trust me Craig is a tough act to fol­low if you have to speak af­ter him at a con­fer­ence! To date the Po­lar Academy has run four ex­pe­di­tions in­volv­ing pupils from ten sec­ondary schools in Scot­land and has changed the lives of these young peo­ple.

Craig’s char­ity is sup­ported by gen­er­ous bene­fac­tors and shortly af­ter I met Craig he got in touch with me to say that one of his donors had given them a sin­gle cask of 12-year-old Port Char­lotte. He needed some ad­vice on what to do with it to gen­er­ate funds for the char­ity. I was thrilled to as­sist Craig in a pro-bono ca­pac­ity to make the most of the cask. On his last ex­pe­di­tion, while sea kayak­ing, Craig har­vested a small amount of gla­cial ice by hand from a mil­len­niaold ice­berg. The pure gla­cial wa­ter was used to re­duce the whisky to 50% abv for bot­tling. But don’t worry, the small amount of ice that was taken was done in the same method that the lo­cal Inuit pop­u­la­tion have used for cen­turies. In July 2017, the Po­lar Ex­plorer Whisky was re­leased with only 200 bot­tles avail­able and all funds go­ing to sup­port the Po­lar Academy’s wor­thy work. There are still some left and these can be ac­quired by do­na­tion only di­rect from the Po­lar Academy. See www.the­p­o­lara­cademy.org for more in­for­ma­tion and con­tact de­tails.

A few months ago I was ap­proached by the team build­ing Ard­gowan Dis­tillery to help them launch a lim­ited edi­tion whisky. The bot­tling, called Ex­pe­di­tion, is a blended malt, part of which has been all the way to the South Pole and back.

Po­lar ex­plorer Robert Swan OBE was at­tempt­ing a low-car­bon ex­pe­di­tion to the South Pole and needed a way to melt snow into drink­ing wa­ter that didn’t in­volve us­ing fuel. The team at Ard­gowan dis­tillery have a back­ground in re­new­able en­ergy and will be mak­ing their new dis­tillery as en­ergy ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble. They in­vented an in­cred­i­ble piece of tech­nol­ogy which was es­sen­tially a flask mounted in an ar­gon gas cham­ber that could melt snow us­ing only UV rays. Robert Swan’s South Pole En­ergy Chal­lenge didn’t have the bud­get to pay for four of these (one for each team mem­ber) so in re­turn they were asked to carry a stain­less steel flask of an undis­closed sin­gle malt to the South Pole and bring it back to Scot­land.

On its safe re­turn to Scot­land it was ex­pertly blended by Wil­lie Phillips, for­mer manag­ing di­rec­tor of the Ma­callan, into a stun­ning 20-year-old blended malt. Only 600 bot­tles have been made and not many are left. You can ac­quire one of the re­main­ing bot­tles by vis­it­ing www.ard­gowan­dis­tillery.com.

I had the plea­sure of lead­ing the first pub­lic tast­ing of the Ex­pe­di­tion whisky af­ter a lec­ture from Robert Swan. It ap­pears that travers­ing the poles makes you an elo­quent pub­lic speaker. Hav­ing heard both Craig Mathieson and Robert Swan, who have both been to the North and South Poles, I can safely say I have no urge to trek to the

Poles and I’m quite happy to hear about their en­deav­ours and savour a wee dram. How­ever, if

I ever changed my mind and was at­tempt­ing to make it to a Pole, I would need sev­eral drams to be in­volved – count­less nips to keep me warmed along the way and a dram to toast my ar­rival.

The pure gla­cial wa­ter was used to re­duce the whisky to 50% abv for bot­tling

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