A Truism.

THE MCLEANSCOTLAND WHISKY INTERVIEW by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland


This (interview) chat was with a pal I’ve know some years now, a hard one to be honest, as he is a part of the church and, me being Catholic, be careful what I ask!  Even so, it was fun.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Vic Cameron, and I am a minister and whisky consultant. Yes, quite a difference in roles, however I am ‘living the dream’. Pastoring my church and travelling the world doing whisky consultancy is my dream job. I am also a husband, father and Drowdie (that’s a grandfather) and a passionate follower of Forres Mechanics Football Club.

What whisky do you collect if any and why?

I don’t really collect whisky as such; I am a firm believer that whisky is purchased for drinking and enjoying. I have nothing of course against whisky collectors; however, it is not for me. There are certain whiskies I thought that I will keep. I’m always on the look out for whiskies with distillation dates when I was based on a particular site. So, I’m always on the look out for Blair Athol and Aberfeldy from 1995 and 1996, and Dailuaine and Benrinnes from 2000 to 2003.

How did your passion for whisky begin?

I was never really into whisky as a young man but got a taste for good whisky while I was training to be a Distillery Manager with Diageo. I was 29 at the time and was based at a good site (which will remain nameless) working under an experienced manager (who will also remain nameless). One Friday afternoon I was informed we were going for a walk round the warehouse and we ended up at the back of one next to a 30 year old sherry cask. Samples were drawn and drams were poured and I was offered one. “I don’t drink whisky”, I said. I was told in no uncertain terms, with a few expletives thrown in for effect, that if I wanted to be a Distillery Manager, I had to drink whisky. So, I did, and it was wonderful; it was smooth (even at about 55% alcohol) and delicious and I have never looked back. It was also at this point that I saw distilling as a vocation and career and not just a job.

Would you like to see the closed distilleries rebuilt? Any one in particular?

I’m probably not the best person to ask this question seeing as I stood up in a training session a couple of years ago and stated that Diageo would never open Port Ellen or Brora! So, I’ve not got a great history in this respect. There are of course many sites that could be opened again. It is good to see the ‘old giants’ opening again; Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank for example. As a local Forres boy it would be nice to see Dallas Dhu opening again, just to have another distillery in Forres to go along with Benromach and increase employment and visitors in the area.

The prices for certain whiskies keep on climbing. How does that affect your decision to keep or open a bottle?

I have to say that I will not pay what I think to be silly prices. You can still get great whisky for good prices; you can get a decent dram from the SMWS for under £60 in my opinion. Up here we can get good distillery bottlings at decent prices from Glen Moray and Benromach. And as I’ve said before I buy to enjoy not invest, so if I buy a bottle, I will open it eventually.

How do you feel about whisky investment – and do you consider yourself an ‘investor’?

As I’ve said I do not see myself as an ‘investor’ but nothing against those that are good at it and think they can make some money from it. Sometimes it bugs me when I see something that has just come out being sold on Facebook and auction sites almost immediately but that is always going to happen.

Do you think you’d be as passionate about whisky if you didn’t have connections so immersed in it?

No, I don’t think I would. Having worked in the industry for so long and being involved in so many aspects of the industry has seen my passion increase over the years. Now I just love being involved in this wonderful industry, that is known about all over the world. Everywhere I go in the world, once people know I am Scottish they want to talk about whisky, and I love that.

What are the most prized bottles in your collection?

It would be whisky distilled when I was in the management team at that site, so they would be my 1996 Gordon and MacPhail Aberfeldy, 2000 Cadenhead’s Benrinnes and 2002 Gordon and MacPhail Dailuaine.

Do you like sharing your own bottles?

Aye, I certainly do. Whisky is for sharing and I love drinking my whisky with my family and friends. I have found that people who are passionate about whisky are also normally generous as well and I’d like to think that my friends would say I was a very generous host with regards to my whisky.

What do you think about the modern whisky industry and the finishes of the product?

I think we are seeing some really exciting things happening in the industry right now. I had the great pleasure to be the Technical Advisor in the first ever Scottish Whisky Awards recently and saw the great entries that came in for this competition. The industry is full of experienced and innovative people doing great work and I am very excited about what they are doing now. And this includes what both the established guys and the new guys are doing; there is space in the industry for both.

What’s been the greatest whisky experience of your life so far?

I think it is what I am doing currently; having people put their trust and confidence in me, allowing me to work for them as a consultant. That is an amazing experience and means I have seen many parts of the world that I would never have been to, such as Myanmar and Singapore.

What are your holy grail bottles to taste/own/find?

For me it must be the ones I help to make!

Talking of Holy Grail, what drew you into becoming a spiritual leader? And your role with the higher spirits?

I started attending church in the early 1990s but soon fell away. I came back after the Twin Towers terrorist attack and made a real commitment to the Lord. I became a leader in the church fairly quickly and then studied via correspondence and on-site training to become an ordained minister (yes, I can call myself Reverend Cameron). I did this while working for Diageo and started leading a church in my ‘spare time’. 5 years ago, I felt led to change my work/church balance in order to work more in the church, so I left my full-time role with Diageo. I then started a consultancy business and done that in my ‘spare time’. And this is what I am still doing.

I do class my main job as Pastor (or minster). I love this job, being there for people and helping them live their lives. I like seeing people achieve their potential and I feel I can help them do this in my spiritual role.

How do you blend both pastimes? Is pastimes the correct word?

Maybe pastimes is not the correct word but I’m OK with that. Perhaps vocations would be a better word to use? I am very blessed at church in that I have a good team of leaders around me who can take the strain of the ministry as and when I am away on business. I love the freedom I have just now, being able to juggle my time according to what is needed. I can minster during the day for example and work at night, something that was not possible with a full-time secular job. So, I can be available for people in the church more than I used to be. I am passionate about both my vocations and feel if I manage my time well, I can do both.

What of the future?

Who knows! But whatever it is I am really excited about it. I have a few projects in the consultancy business about to start that are very exciting, both at home and abroad (watch this space), and that will keep me busy. I am also excited about our church project in India, where we have built and now run, an orphan and widow feeding station. I visit ever year and am about to go out again soon. In the long term I hope to live for half the year in India and build a school near our feeding station. So, lots of plans and lots of things to do? And of course keep enjoying a wee dram every now and again!


Dewar’s to launch Caribbean Smooth ~ by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

Dewar’s to launch Caribbean Smooth

an eight year old whisky blend finished in rum casks – as the first in a new series of ‘innovative’ blends set for release over the next few years.  The whisky has been finished in rum casks for ‘around six months’ before being bottled at 40% abv. Priced at US$21.99, Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth is available exclusively in the US and Canada from 1 October. MY QUESTION IS how can a rum cask flavour this dram in under six months? Casks were sourced straight from the Caribbean and brought to Glasgow to be filled with an 8 year old blend. SECOND QUESTION as the new laws on whisky came out in June, June to September is only 3 months or so, when did Dewar’s obtain the casks? Did they know in advance the changes about to come into force? What if it hadnee happened? How long does it take to formulate a blend, then re cask and bottle, then have it available the other side of the world?  All since June and mid September? Come on, somebody is pulling the wool here! How did Glenfiddich Distillery get away with it? Like many industries, it seems to me that whisky has many hidden, hidden/underhand deals going on behind the scenes, far too much money is at stake to just take chances. What did Glen Moray  do with those cider casks? It seems to me that the big boys in the whisky industry get away with things, that wee distillers cannee. Why did they decide to only launch in North America? Are the rules different? Are the drinkers less knowledgeable? Like JW did with their ill-fated Jane Walker, use that region as a guinea pig? If all goes horribly wrong, just dinnae mention it again and forget it. The amendment to the Scotch whisky technical file, made in June 2019, allowed Scotch whisky producers to use a wider variety of casks for maturation, including ex-Tequila and Calvados casks. However, rum casks were already permitted for the maturation of Scotch before the rule change, with recent examples including Glenfiddich Fire & Cane and Ardbeg Drum. The amendment to the Scotch Whisky Technical File, gives specific guidance on which casks can be used to mature or ‘finish’ Scotch whisky, with new text as follows:

The full detailed guff;  ‘The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of: wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits – beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation – spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beers/ales or spirits. Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch Whisky.’ In practice, the new rules mean that distillers can now mature Scotch whisky in a much wider variety of casks, including those previously used to age agave spirits (including Tequila and mezcal), Calvados, barrel-aged cachaça, shochu and baijiu, as well as some other fruit spirits. The rules also do not allow the use of ex-cider casks, despite the launch of a cider cask-finished single malt by Speyside single malt Glen Moray in October last year. In January 2018, a report by The Wall Street Journal claimed that Diageo, the world’s biggest Scotch whisky producer, had formed a ‘secret task force’ to explore possible changes to Scotch’s strict production rules, including ‘finishing’ Scotch whisky in casks previously used to mature Don Julio Tequila, which the company owns. At the time, the plans were said to have been rebuffed by the SWA. There is more of this than meets the eye, have Diageo been “up to dealings”? Most distillers have been supportive of Scotch whisky’s strict production regulations, but some have privately expressed concerns recently that the tight rules governing cask maturation in particular might be putting Scotch at a commercial disadvantage to rival whisky categories.  Balvenie have used rum casks for many years now, is it just me? I don’t understand this “new development”. PAUL MCLEAN



Remembrance Day: Lest we forget


One Thousand Men Are Walking By Joshua Dyer

One Thousand Men Are Walking

By Joshua Dyer

One thousand men are walking

Walking side by side

Singing songs from home

The spirit as their guide

they walk toward the light milord

they walk towards the sun

they smoke and laugh and smile together

no foes to outrun

these men live on forever

in the hearts of those they saved

a nation truly grateful

for the path of peace they paved

they march as friends and comrades

but they do not march for war

step closer to salvation

a tranquil steady corps

the meadows lit with golden beams

a beacon for the brave

the emerald grass untrampled

a reward for what they gave

they dream of those they left behind

and know they dream of them

forever in those poppy fields

there walks one thousand men


Happy 4th of July to our friends in the United States of America!

HAPPY CANADA DAY! July 1st, 2019


The 2018 Whisky Raids “How did that happen?” – Whisky Confiscation News



Another year? How did that happen? 

It’s been nearly 1 year since The Great Whisky Raid of 2018, not much has happened lately but we are trying to work with the government to find a solution to the unlawful seizure of 242 bottles of some of the rarest whisky on earth and to see a policy change whereby bars and restaurants are able to source product from private retailers.

“Bars or Restaurants that specialize in exotic products that they can’t get through the public wholesaler should be able to access that kind of product legally”  David Eby, Attorney General, January 2018. But still no change.

We stand by our concerns surrounding the raid:

1: The manner in which the raid and seizure was handled: we feel that the government agents breached the Canadian Charter and were required to produce a seizure warrant as they seized the whisky “as evidence in an on going investigation”

2: Why the government refuses to allow licensees to purchase products from private retailers.

Last year industry lawyer Mark Hicken was called upon to review BC’s archaic liquor laws and through him, the review panel and submissions from industry stakeholders, of which we made 2 submissions. The final report containing 24 recommendations was handed to Attorney General David Eby on April 30th 2018 and has since been sitting on his desk collecting dust.

See The Report Here

Of all the recommendations in the report the one we have been advocating for is Licensee to Licensee sales (The Sourcing of Product, recommendation #11 on page 18 of the report). With the implementation of this recommendation we would be able to continue adding rare and wonderful whiskies to our collection including the fabulous whiskies from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

#11 The Sourcing of Product:”Hospitality licensees should not be restricted to buying their liquor products from government retail stores. Such licensees should be able to buy from any licensed source in BC including private retailers. In this way, hospitality licensees will have alternative sources for products where the wholesale system minimums are not met. An appropriate reporting mechanism should be established for such sales in order to ensure that the data relating to sales in this channel is not lost.”

To help out there is a petition on line: Free The Whisky

Here are a few links if you’d like to read further: 

Scotch Whisky Magazine          Forbes          Scout Magazine

The Georgia Straight           Vancouver is Awesome          Global News

CBC           The Globe and Mail          CTV

We still have the largest whisky selection in the country and have nearly a 1000 whiskies on our shelves.

The monthly Hand Crafted Spirits Radio Show with Joe Leary and Darryl Lamb is still being hosted at The Kitchen. Tune in to TSN Radio 1410 at noon on the first Saturday of each month. you can click here to listen to past broadcasts

Our Partner Scotch Malt Whisky Society retailer is Legacy Liquor Store in the Olympic Village and host to our monthly Society Outturns on the first Tuesday and Thursday of the month. Allura and I present on the Tuesday

Remembrance Day: Lest we forget


Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July to our friends in the United States of America!

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