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Introducing Guest Blogger Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie, Scottish Travel Writer, Blogger & Broadcaster delves behind the scenes of the Clydeside Distillery.

For me there are two types of people when it comes to whisky–those who absolutely love it–and the unfortunates yet to realise they do. For years I fell into the latter category, but since developing a passion for this most special of drinks I’ve never looked back. I’d like to share some of my own whisky journey with you and look into what is so special about whisky, setting the scene for my new role blogging for this glorious new distillery on the banks of the Clyde.

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The Clydeside Distillery overlooking the River Clyde

I’ve been a travel writer for over two decades, a job that has taken me to over 100 countries across five continents. Over the years I’ve written 1,000s of travel features, many of them on my native Scotland. I’ve also penned over 30 guidebooks, including a guide to Scotland for National Geographic–the second edition has just been published. I talk regularly about travel for various BBC Radio stations and am very active on social media. You can find me on Twitter here and for my website click here.

How could you not be fascinated by something that takes a minimum of three years, often much longer, to craft?

On my travels, I’ve written about all sorts of drinks on trips to the likes of Champagne Region to cover the famous sparkling wines, a very long weekend exploring vodka production in Poland and an adventure through the beer halls and microbreweries of Prague. It’s whisky now, though, that has become my favourite tipple and the drink whose production most fascinates me. How could you not be fascinated by something that takes a minimum of three years, often much longer, to craft?

Robin McKelvie working the malt at Laphroaig DistilleryWorking the malt at Laphroaig Distillery

Over the years, and multiple trips to Scotland’s whisky heartlands, my love and appreciation of whisky has grown in tandem with my knowledge.

My journey to whisky appreciation has not always been a smooth one. Like many people, I dabbled with poor, cheap blends at parties when I was young. At first, I didn’t know the difference between blended whisky and a single malt, let alone what a grain whisky was. Over the years, and multiple trips to Scotland’s whisky heartlands, my love and appreciation of whisky has grown in tandem with my knowledge. There is just so much to uisge beatha, or the ‘water of life’ as it so appositely translates from Gaelic.

Robin McKelvie looking at the Clydeside Distillery chairman's old and rare whisky collectionThe Clydeside Distillery Chairman's collection of old and rare whiskies


In the early days of my journey, a sommelier in the Marais told me dismissively that “there is no such thing as terroir in any spirit, including whisky”. I took his word as gospel and only started to question it when I took my first ferry trip to Islay. I gazed out from the deck and looming into view were a trio of distilleries that produced three of my favourite malts. For years I hadn’t even thought about where they were and now I found them right next to each other. That Parisian sommelier was wrong. That is terroir!

I’ve never come across a drink that has such a burning, intense sense of place.

Whisky for me is a drink to savour, to savour its terroir as much as its aromas and flavours. I love that wherever I am in the world I can order a decent whisky and settle back in the knowledge that I know exactly where it came from and the authenticity of how it was made. I also know that as soon as I take my first sniff I will be instantly spirited back to Scotland. The effect for me really is that dramatic. I’ve never come across a drink that has such a burning, intense sense of place.

The Queen’s Dock used to swim here in whisky heritage and today’s gleaming Speyside-crafted stills themselves have their own floor to ceiling windows so they can enjoy a view of the historic river and the Tall Ship.

This idea of whisky having a real sense of place is one of the things that is most exciting me about blogging for the Clydeside Distillery. It is a new distillery housed in a glorious old building right on the banks of Glasgow’s lifeblood river. The Queen’s Dock used to swim here in whisky heritage and today’s gleaming Speyside-crafted stills themselves have their own floor to ceiling windows so they can enjoy a view of the historic river and the Tall Ship. This elegant sailing ship emotively echoes the history and sense of place of a river that once gave birth to many of the world’s great ships and which was once alive with commerce and industry.

I’m going to be writing blogs for the Clydeside Distillery every quarter and I’d very much like you to join me in my whisky explorations. I’ll be delving behind the scenes of this thrilling new distillery and looking at where they source their water, their barley and their inspiration. I’ll also be exploring a distillery that is today very much open for visitors with its tours, well-stocked whisky shop and superb café. Already you can come here to learn more about how whisky is made and the heritage of Clydeside Distillery, before witnessing the production itself.

Robin McKelvie Enjoying a dram in the Clydeside Distillery CafeEnjoying a dram at the Clydeside Distillery Café

Local produce abounds in their café (I thoroughly recommend their gorgeous tasting platter) and then you can snare a bottle of one of the three single malt whiskies they stock that you can label yourself. They even have limited stocks of their new make spirit on sale so you can get an idea of how the single malt whisky is going to shape up. I’ve had a wee taste and I’m delighted to report it’s more than promising. I’ll be talking you through what I made of it in a future blog.

My next blog will be looking into how the distillery was born in these deeply historic surrounds and its colourful story, a story that binds strongly into the fabric of Scotland’s largest city.

Please feel free to ask any questions on social media or by contacting the distillery, or make suggestions on things you’d like me to write about. I’m very much looking forward to sharing with you my new whisky journey at the Clydeside Distillery. Until next time all that is left for me is to say a hearty slàinte!

Book your own tour of The Clydeside Distillery here.