John Nicolson: Taking in the joys of the constituency during recess

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Categories: News

Photo Credit – VisitScotland

I’m generally at Westminster all week, returning home for weekends and back down to London on Sundays. Saturdays are often taken up by constituency surgeries. So parliamentary recesses, when the Commons doesn’t sit, are my chance for longer meetings with constituents old and new.

During the recent recess, I re-visited Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest distillery. Glenturret looks, as you arrive, like a wee Highland clachan – a row of whitewashed cottages bursting with spring flowers.

It’s a deceptive façade because, behind it, sits a powerhouse of commerce and cuisine.

Glenturret prides itself on its traditional methods, gleaming casks, and aromatic whisky ranging in price from the accessible to the eye watering. But it’s not sitting on its laurels, and is working hard on its carbon neutral credentials.

Catching up with the distillery boss, he told me again just how tough Brexit has been for them.

Red tape delays mean it has taken longer to get consignments to Paris than Tokyo.

There are expensive new labelling requirements for non-EU firms.

And deliveries have been refused because whisky was labelled from ‘Scotland’ or ‘Great Britain’. Only ‘UK’ labels get past some border checks under opaque new rules.

Glenturret is an important local employer. Job fears were raised when the company was recently bought by the Franco-Swiss glassware firm Lalique. But Lalique is hiring not firing, expanding not contracting.

The distillery’s first floor has been elegantly revamped into a suite of rooms decorated in a Franco-Scottish fusion of glass and tweed. The restaurant has now joined Scotland’s culinary elite with a well-deserved Michelin star.

Glenturret is building brand new storage for bigger bond houses and some guest accommodation – all of which will provide more jobs in the constituency.

Much of the investment comes from new Swiss co-owner Hansjörg Wyss. He is a hoot. At 86 he still bursts with energy.

When we met, he asked if I’d like to go out clubbing with him in Crieff.

He pilots his own plane and bubbles with optimism and passion. Forbes Magazine describes him as “one of the world’s leading philanthropists” and he ploughs some of the billions he made (developing a product which helps patients recover from bone injuries) into environmental and other liberal political causes.

He’s passionate about African American political engagement, and is doing all he can to counter voter suppression in his adopted home.

Over dinner, I asked him what brought him to Glenturret. And it seems he’s always loved Scotland, and thought an environmentally-focused distillery would be a good match for his world famous glassware firm.

So what about that night out on the dance floor? Well, Crieff is one of my favourite places in the world. But I had to break the news, gently, that there aren’t many late night clubbing spots. He looked disappointed. It was only midnight.

He’s now off to buy Chelsea (the football club not the London postcode). But I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing lots more of him at Glenturret.