Scots Blenders Battle Over Age Of Whiskey Distilled For Export - Burlington Free Press April 25th 1952
This article from the Burlington Free Press in 1952, highlights the existence of two Scottish based whisky bodies with differing aspirations and views. The topic of debate is the minimum age of whisky (noted as whiskey in the headline) for certain export markets.
We know the outcome of that debate in hindsight, but in 1952, none other than William Birnie of Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor, was lined up as a spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association, which was noted to be 'old and 'orthodox' and based in Edinburgh. Whereas the Independent Scotch Whisky Association, was new and based in Glasgow and set up by 40 firms.
For our purposes, it shows the high esteem that William was regarded by his peers, his profile in the Scotch whisky industry through his work at both distilleries and series of statistical publications. On the topic at hand, William made his thoughts clear:
'Whisky under three years old is a sick spirit' said Birnie. 'Sick in spirit and violent in the throat of a man and I personally should welcome legislation requiring five years of aging.'
I wonder how his viewpoint was received, not only by the independent association, but by his own trade representatives? Clearly reducing the minimum age for foreign markets was not starter, but William actually wanted to raise the bar further, which to an industry post-war may have seemed like utter madness.
This viewpoint might explain why during his period at Mackinlay & Birnie, the youngest official single malt released by Glen Mhor was 6 years old. William was not only a man of words, but also it seems, action.